Murals (2008) by PHANTAST - Graffiti - Cultural Music & Art Association inc. - 98 Milne St. Benleigh

the pharisee_and_the_publicanThe Pharisee and the publican, early 6th century mosaic, St. Apollinare Nuovo, Ravena, Italy.

"Two people went up to the temple to pray: one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector" (Luke, 18:9).

The Publican comes and stands at the rear of the church. He knows that he stands condemned; he knows that in terms of justice there is no hope for him because he is an outsider to the kingdom of God, the kingdom of righteousness or the kingdom of love, because he belongs neither to the realm of righteousness nor to the realm of love. But in the cruel, violent, the ugly life he leads, he has learnt something of which the righteous Pharisee has  no idea. He has learnt that in a word of competition, in a word of predatory animals, in a word of cruelty and heartlessness, the only hope one can have is an act of mercy, an act of compassion, a completely unexpected act which is rooted neither in duty nor in natural relationships, which will suspend action of the cruel, violent, heartless world  in which we live.

 All he knows, for instance, from being himself and extortioner, a moneylender, a thief, and so forth, is that there are moments when for no reason, because it is not part of the world's outlook, he will forgive a debt, because suddenly his heart has become mild and vulnerable; that on another occasion he may not get someone put into prison because a face will have reminded him of something or a voice has gone straight to his heart. There is no logic in this. It is not part of the world's outlook not is it a way in which he normally behaves. It is something that breaks through, which is completely nonsensical, which he cannot resist; and he knows also, probably, how often he himself was saved from final catastrophe by this intrusion of the unexpected and the impossible, mercy, compassion, forgiveness.  

So he stands at the rear of the church, knowing that all the realm inside the church is a realm of righteousness  and divine love to which he does not belong and into which he cannot enter. But he knows from experience also that the impossible does occur and that is why he says:  "Have mercy, God,  break the laws of righteousness, break the laws of religion, come down in mercy to us who have no right to be either forgiven or allowed in". ( Surgeon and bishop Anthony Bloom, School for Prayer, 1974)

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