The Pharisee and the Publican crossing ones “T’s” and dotting the “i’s”


I think this icon resembles what I was saying in another thread about having all the dogmas and doctrines right but our lives being a Mess. Like the Pharisee we are often in danger of falling into the whitewashed tomb of an intellectual, legalistic, external and spiritual pride kind of conversion. We tick all the right boxes in being intellectually “right” all the time with regards to the churches teaching on abortion, contraception, the immaculate conception and so on.

However I often ask myself am I really converted, Or have I been intellectually converted in which I’ve grabbed the faith as an idea in which I said ” ah yes Peter being the rock upon which the church is built makes total sense, and your explanation of it Mr.Scott Hahn has me totally won over, I’m becoming a catholic now”? I often wonder if those of us have had an intellectual conversion rather than a conversion of the he heart. I think it is a transformation of the heart that is needed if the doctrines are going to make sense but I can’t help but think I’ve been putting the horse ( doctrine and morals rubrics ) before the carriage ( the heart of the law ).

The Pharisee had ticked all the correct boxes concerning his faith, he paid his tithes he observed the law and many of us think by simply having some intellectual affirmation of the dogma and morals that somehow we are saved this way but it really isn’t the case. We can become very rigid in our little traditions that we adore the traditions rather than Christ himself and that is the danger the Pharisees fell into and that we continue to fall into today. I know I have fell into this hole many times and without knowing it I had found myself getting it all right but my entire life being a mess. Kind of like when I said to a person once, ” I can eat whatever I want and I never seem to get fat” and he replied ” yeah but that doesn’t mean your insides are not rotting away” and what could I say to that? He was right. The same goes for spiritual selves, we clean the outside of the bowl but fail to wash the inside and we run around with our little legalistic stick and point to everyone the canons of the church on their disobedience of A,B and C and are often self styled theologians and philosophers on everything concerning the church but we rarely look at ourselves to see just how rigid and blind we are.

I’m thinking of that legalistic kind I’ve met where I presented to someone a non church approved apparition and they dared not look at it because it wasn’t approved by the church, and the same person when trying to justify that the eastern Catholics do not have to submit to the Theotokos being immaculate, I pointed to Our Lady of Lourdes ( a church approved apparition ) who actually replied “I am the immaculate conception” actually said ” the church teaches that even though it’s approved I don’t have to believe in it”. They used that as an excuse to try and get around it and they use every legal avenue they can to excuse themselves just like the Pharisees did.

If it’s approved they don’t have to believe in it, if its not approved they don’t want to know at all. There is no getting through to a legalistic spirit like that except wiping the dust off ones sandals and just moving on to the next town. I often look at myself and see a lot of it I need to get rid of also but if I don’t talk about it and bring it to the surface who will? They say talking to yourself is a sign of madness and I guess that makes me a mad man because this post in which I rebuke all of this is a rebuke for me as much as it is for anyone else to be honest.

There is a nice little anecdote I once heard and it goes like this: a man approaches the locked doors of a church banging on the door and calling out ” God they excommunicated me because I am a sinner” and the voice of God booms out of the heavens in reply ” what are you complaining about? They won’t let me in either”.

Have we become so blinded by our desire to be right and do everything right that we worship this instead and forgotten the heart of the Law which is love of God and neighbour? I often wonder and continue to do so.

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