The Arena
The Arena

Episode 555 · 9 months ago

Words of Madness | Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee 2022


The Arena Podcast is the flagship of Patristic Nectar Publications and contains the Sunday Sermons and other theological reflections by Father Josiah Trenham delivered from the ambon of St. Andrew Church in Riverside, California and begun in 2010. Currently there are more than 550 sermons and lectures covering ten years worth of preaching through the liturgical calendar.

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Now available at patristic nectar dot Org. patristic nectar publications is pleased to present theological foundations God, man and the world in Genesis one through three a ten lecture series. The opening chapters of the Holy Bible provide the fundamental elements of the Christian World View. There we learn about the one true God, the human being fashioned in God's image and God's meaning infused creation. These texts, which have always formed a central element in the Church's catechetical ministry, present the most important of Christian convictions. These chapters are particularly relevant today, as secularism has suppressed these essential truths from the Western mind and priests can no longer assume that these basic theological affirmations are believed by those coming to the church or raised in the church. These lectures are presented as an aid in the formation of catechumens and as an effort to set forth the transcendent beauty of the glory of God, of the human being and of God's magnificent world. For these and other available titles, visit our website at patristic nectar dot org. And now the arena with Father Josiah Trennam, in the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Blessed Lord's they to all of you, brothers and sisters. I've entitled my homily this morning words of madness, words of madness. The title comes from the Great Canon of St Andrew, in the Ninth Ode that we chant in the first and the fifth week of great lent, that magnificent Canon of repentance, and he puts these words, he did. He sets forth these words as a description of the speech of the Pharisee in Today's Gospel. Words of madness, words of madness, of insanity, fill our country today like at no time in my life. One of the main streams that promotes words of madness is the massive opioid crisis that we have in our country. I've been listening to a heartbreaking but very insightful book written by a woman named Beth macy, called Dope, sick dealers, doctors and the drug company that addicted America. It's an incredible text and heartbreaking and something that we know everywhere, from the big cities to the rural lands of America, there is no place in our land that the scourge of drug addiction hasn't been successfully promoted and reaped sorrowful, terrible, terrible crop. So maybe some of you live in places where your nights aren't filled with screams, but it's certainly not me. I hear them all the time. Not a day goes by when I don't hear the screams, the cries of madness of the drug addicted in our society. I gave up some time ago the thought that I could actually fill up my gas tank without hearing them, that I could actually go to a gas station and not see a person who's on was addicted to drugs. It's not possible. It's the at least not in the airy I drive. This is how sad it is. But it's not just the irrational cries of the drug addicts that fill our culture. Even the socalled civilized, even the intellectuals, are speaking words of utter madness, so much... that words themselves have been a viscerated. At meeting, one word, extremely important to me, and I know to you, the word woman, has no meaning in our culture today. If we bow, as most universities in corporations in our land have bowed, to the cries of madness, to the words of madness of our intellectuals in complete and total rebellion against God and biology. We can't even know what a woman is. They can't even define one. This is how crazy it is. Words of madness, on the one hand and on the other, filling our society. But, dear ones, nothing compares. Nothing compares to the words of madness that begin this way. I thank the Oh lord that I am not like other men, especially that one. Those words of madness make the cries of the addicted and the mental chaos of the detached from any transcendent norms appear reasonable. The cry of the Pharisee in Today's Gospel is far worse, far more grotesque. Luke eighteen is the chapter from which the Gospel is drawn. The setting is given to us by St Louis. Before Jesus told this parable. Luke says that there were certain men, certain Pharisees, there who thought that they themselves were righteous and despised others. This is the background in which Jesus taught this parable the self righteous, the religiously active, who are stuck up, who had actually become insane by their externalized religion and their self concept. Today's Gospel is a poignant expression of that statement that Jesus made. By your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned. So we see it fleshed out in the parable today. One man who thought he was righteous condemned another man who knew he was a sinner, and the externalist, the grotesque, insane man, went home condemned and the man who beat his breast and said God have mercy on me, a sinner, went home justified. The humble man doesn't despise people. If we have the heart of Christ, we don't condemn people period. Even if they do lots of things that, objectively, according to God's words, are worthy of condemnation, we certainly don't condemn them. We don't despise them. I was reviewing the twenty fifth step of the latter this week because it's all dedicated to humility and there is a beautiful word...

...there. It's a short word but potent, that shows us how far we should go from condemning a person. Saint John of Sinai says there instep twenty five of the latter. He says the pious one not only doesn't despise a per person but, like a bird, fears the sight of a hawk. The humble one fears contradicting another. What a word that is. Like a bird fears the side of the Hawk. The humble one fears contradicting another. To have humility, it's even it makes us nervous even to be in the context of an argument or in a circumstance where we might be tempted to take the position of correcting others, when it's ill advised, when it's not conducive to our own humility. It makes the humble person nervous. How careful are we? How concerned are we about contradicting someone else? Do we fear it like a bird when a hawk is flying by? Two nights ago I was coming home and as I was walking in the back door of my house I saw about five or six little birds speeding it super high speeds and they went right up and over my rooftop and then right behind them a massive owl. I don't know if owls eat those little birds, but by the way that they were flying, a sure looked like it to me, and he was following them and went exactly in the same path, right up over the top of my house and down. This was before I read the text from step twenty five words of madness. Indeed. How could the pharisee be so ignorant of himself? How could he not learn the truth about himself? The answer is that he was only content with the externals he it's expressed in the text by saying that when he stood that he stood to pray. Write. This parable is very much about how to pray, to models of prayer both in the Temple of God. When he stood to pray, it says, he prayed to himself. He had no great grasp of what he was doing, who he was before. He didn't judge where he was correctly, he didn't judge before whom he stood correctly, and he certainly didn't judge himself and couldn't pray from his heart. All he had in his mind was the outside, the easy part. It's all he had. He wasn't in engaged in any great quest at inner transformation. He wasn't locked in an honest, courageous observation of his own heart, which is the hardest part of following Christ by far. Now that was all too much for him, all too much. The publican exactly the opposite. Notice. The text doesn't say of the Publican that he stood there praying to himself. Instead, it says he put his head down and he beat his breast. He addressed his heart and, knowing his...

...heart, he brought forth compunction, he brought forth repentance. Saint Sophroni of Essex, commonly on this has a beautiful word. It's a hard word to accept, but if we could accept it we would make tremendous progress towards the Kingdom of God. Listen to Saint Sophroni. He says we ourselves must learn to become greater persecutors of ourselves than are our enemies. Most of us are just trying to deal with our enemies without losing our souls. and Saint Sophroni says if we have our mind right, if we're not mad, then we should do what the saints did when the saints were accused. They didn't deny it, they didn't say you're wrong, vague joy bind the accuser in criticizing themselves. Wait a minute, wait a minute, you're missing something. There's more to it. You're only seeing what you can see from the inside. Let me tell you it's a lot worse. God help us. We know it's true. We hear beautiful words like this from Saint Sophroni, it's very scary. I want to encourage you with some words from St John's first epistle. He says if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have no sin, we make God a liar and his word is not in us. John goes on and to explain not only that it's good to confess, it's good to acknowledge courageously the truth about who we are and not to make up a phony external self like this pharisee did. It's good not just because it secures US forgiveness and interior cleansing rejuvenation. When we tell the truth about ourselves and we speak it before God, God takes it away in his great love for us, and he also rejuvenates us. He reduces the power of our sins in our life. But he goes further. St John Goes further and says if you really want to love Christ, the way for your love to Christ to go up is for your self concept to go down. The more honest you are about who you are, the more honest you are of exposing the interior of your life and calling a spade a spade, the more that you see what God has provided for us in Jesus. Listen to the very next verse, First John. If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. He himself is the expiation, the covering of our sins, and not only for us but for the entire world. Yes, if you want to know Jesus as more precious in your life, if you want your devotion and appreciation and love for him to increase, then accept the truth about yourself and recognize that you have a solution. The solution isn't pretending it's not...

...there, like this pharisee in creating a false SK image. The solution is the advocate that the father has provided for us, the one who has come to take away our sins, the one who's standing for us and saying this one's mine, that one's mine. He belongs to me, she belongs to me. No death and no sin can touch them. This is our confidence. You want the Gospel to mean something precious to you. Tell the truth. Tell the truth about yourself, Father Zacharias of Essex. He goes further. He says we actually must learn to curse our own righteousness. We must learn to curse our own righteousness and to blame ourselves for all and to give glory to God. If we don't, and if we judge others, if we despise anyone because we think they're really bad compared to us, we're mad, worthy, insane ones. Better to be a meth addict on the sidewalks of Riverside then to be like that and to judge people. I want to end by a beautiful word about Thanksgiving. One of the great sorrows of this text is that the man, the Pharisee, the lunatic in the story, condemned himself in the middle of a prayer of thanksgiving. How do you do that? Thanksgiving, which is, under most circumstances, the witness to a heart of faith and gratitude and humility? In this case it was the conveyance of his insanity, his pride, his death dealing man destroying pride in the middle of a prayer of thanksgiving. How is that? Possible. What's possible, because there's two kinds of thanksgiving, one which is pleasing to God and one which is grotesque. The one which is grotetes comes from pride and it issues forth in judgment. We thank God for something that's not true. I thank you, Lord that I'm so great. Were you fay it like that? And that just sick. Who would do that? Right? Only an insane, that spiritually insane person. That kind of Thanksgiving is atrocious to God. But the Thanksgiving that comes from humility, the Thanksgiving that comes from a person who knows that we are not good judges of our own sins. The thanksgiving that comes from someone who knows that what we see is only a portion, a small portion, of what's there, the portion that the Holy Spirit has given to us at that moment to deal with, but that there's a lot more that we're blind to. The thanksgiving that comes from a humble heart like that, a heart that's also full of faith, in appreciation, but that fact that God has provided an advocate for us, a solution for all of our problems, way better than anything we could do ourselves. That kind...

...of thanksgiving, the father say, is a mighty shield protecting the believer from all attacks of the enemy, and it's even more valuable. There's a there's a saint that I think may not like me very much. I never really thought about it until this week. I mean, there's probably lots of saints that don't, but there's one and the reason is is because I have teased people with his name so many times. You know, one of the great joys of being a priest is participating in the naming of a child. The parents choose but the priest's names, and that's extremely significant because the priest is acting and praying in place of Christ, giving the person of calling an identity. This is why in our prayer books we have that beautiful prayer for the naming of the children on the eighth day and a lot of times I I'm always careful to talk with the family and make sure that they've chosen a Christian name, a name that will be a calling. But I always tease them to and I say, if it's a boy, I say how about Barsinufius? No one has ever gone for it literally. And for if it's a girl, I used to say, how about Sex Burger? The both incredible saints, Incredible Saints who have names that, to our American ears, are not the most attractive. But this week I was really literally reading the letters of St Barsinuphius and feeling very guilty. I thought to myself, you know, I don't think I should do this anymore, because it really hit me that he may know what I'm doing and may not appreciate it at all, especially because my heart was so appreciative. Because bars I should tell you who Bartsonuphius is, and they got for my sins. Barsonuphius is called in our literature the great old man. He lived in the sixth century. He was an Egyptian copped, but he lived in our monasteries in Palestine and he lived with another another monk that is name is John, but he's called in the literature the other old man. So you have the great old man and the other old man and they were recluses. This is the time under the Great Emperor Justinian, thirty or so. We have two volumes of their letters, mostly written by Barsnufius. They never came out and interacted with people. barsonuvious appointed. He was a spiritual father with hundreds and hundreds of month spiritual children who gathered around him, but he wouldn't come out of his cell. He appointed one of his spiritual sons, Abba Seredos, to be his inter law COETER. He would write his letters, he would pass them to Sarados Sardis, would take them and distribute them. In letter two hundred and fourteen, St Barsinufius addresses the value of thanksgiving. Listen to this. Not only is Thanksgiving that comes from a humble heart and true faith in God so pleasing to him, not only does it function as a shield against every work of the enemy, but set Barsinufia says Thanksgiving is a precious prayer because after we've offered it, it continues to intercede for our weaknesses. This is a magnificent reality about thanksgiving. When you when you recognize your weakness and you recognize your sins...

...and you embrace God's advocate in solution for our problems, which is Jesus, our savior, the covering for our sins, your Thanksgiving explodes. And as your Thanksgiving explodes, it doesn't just please God, it also intercedes continuously for your weaknesses. And if don't, we need constantly to have our prayer interceding for our weaknesses. After we finished it. So take heart, dear ones, take heart. Let's refuse words of madness, especially I thank the Old Lord that I am not like other man, especially bad one. Let's refuse one hundred percent to despise anyone. Let's at least ask God to help bus, to persecute ourselves, to truly believe that we're only seeing a partial portion of who we are. Let Us Trust Christ as our solution to our problems and cover ourselves with Thanksgiving and hope then that that life will be rent, considered by the Lord to be absolutely reasonable, healthy, the expression on the sound heart and mind. God helped us on it. We hope that you have enjoyed and have been edified by this presentation offered to you by Patristic Nectar Publications, a nonprofit organization committed to nourishing the spiritually thirsty with the sweet teachings of the Holy Fathers. If you are interested in other available titles or if you would like more information on patristic nectar publications, please visit our website at www dot patristic nectar dot org. Again, that's www dot patristic nectar dot org.

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