Sunday, February 26, 2017

Putting on the Armor of Light for Lent: Homily for Forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox Church

Romans 13:11-14:4; Matthew 6:14-21

            There are some lines of work in which people who are on duty have to dress in distinctive ways.  The uniforms of police officers, firemen, and members of the military, for example, reflect their unique vocations, responsibilities, and authority.   Athletes, employees in many businesses, and some students must wear clothes that identify them in terms of the larger organization of which they are a part.  Whether we like it or not, the clothes we put on our bodies say something to others, and also to ourselves, about who are and what we should be doing.
              We begin our Lenten journey with the reminder that we must be properly dressed spiritually.  That is a challenge because we are the children of Adam and Eve, who were cast out of Paradise after they stripped themselves of the glory that was theirs as those created in God’s image and likeness. The garments of skin that God gave them at that point showed their weakness and mortality, their slavery to the ways of death.  The good news is that Jesus Christ, the New Adam, has conquered our corruption and restored us to our ancient dignity as those who wear a robe of light.  We have put Him on in baptism like a garment.  In His mercy and love, He has made it possible for each and every one of us to fulfill our original vocation to become ever more like God in holiness as partakers of the divine nature.  Yes, that is truly what it means be a Christian and a human being.
Unfortunately, there is much in us that prefers the nakedness of Adam and Eve to the glory of the robe of light.  Corruption and decay root deep within our souls, and we so easily repudiate our glorious attire and turn away from our calling, preferring darkness and weakness to the brilliant holiness which the Savior has shared with us. For each of us in one way or another, there are strong temptations to strip ourselves of such great dignity and to disappear into the dark night of sin.  Not to do so requires a struggle, a battle, that goes to the depths of our souls. Perhaps that is why St. Paul said to “put on the armor of light,” for armor is strong and designed to protect those who wear it from deadly blows from their enemies.
During the season of Lent, we will be engaged in a difficult struggle to “cast off the works of darkness,” to strip ourselves of the ugly rags of sin that distort and hide our true identity as God’s beloved sons and daughters.  Instead of making sure that we give enough time and attention to serving our self-centered desires, we will invest ourselves in prayer, fasting, and serving others.  Instead of doing our best to ignore the truth about who we are before God and in relation to others, we will open the eyes of our souls to shining light that will reveal some very uncomfortable truths about each of us.  And even as we are tempted to take the focus off our own brokenness and to judge others, we will have to struggle mightily to see that the only failings to concern ourselves with are our own.  
Ever since Adam and Eve stripped themselves naked of the divine glory, people have wronged one another and often refused to extend forgiveness, to ask for and accept forgiveness, and to be reconciled with one another.  Despite the infinite mercy we have received from the Lord Who went to the Cross and rose from the dead to restore us, we so easily fall back into the old ways of resentment and division.  The Church calls us to forgive one another today as a way of taking a first step of repentance, of repudiating the passion-driven separation of God’s children from one another that has plagued humanity ever since Cain murdered his brother Abel.
The Son of God entered into our world of sin and death and took upon Himself the full brunt of its corruption.  He shed His blood in order to reconcile us to Himself, for we had separated ourselves from Him by slavery to sin in all its forms.  In humility and love, the eternal Word submitted to death, burial, and descent to Hades in order to raise us up with Him into eternal life through His resurrection.  That is the ultimate healing of a relationship, and we have only our Lord to thank for it.
As He taught in today’s gospel lesson, we must forgive others in order to be forgiven, in order to be restored to right relationship with God.  To put on Christ like a garment is to participate in His life, to be transformed and healed by personal union with Him.  If we claim His forgiveness and then refuse to forgive others, we strip ourselves of the divine glory as surely as did Adam and Eve.  For those who want His forgiveness without forgiving others do not really want anything to do with the Lord other than to get what they want from Him at the moment.  That was the problem of our first parents, who placed self-centered desire over obedience.  They fell into the idolatry of serving themselves instead of God.  And if we abuse our Lord’s mercy by proudly claiming His forgiveness while refusing to forgive others, we show ourselves to be guilty of the very same thing.  That path leads only to further weakness, darkness, and decay.  
Lent calls us, of course, to do the very opposite by taking every opportunity to participate more fully in the Savior’s healing of our fallen humanity.  We do that by extending forgiveness to those who have wronged us, by asking for and accepting forgiveness from those we have wronged, and otherwise doing what we can to mend broken relationships. These matters strike at the heart of the healing of our souls, and we should not be surprised when we struggle along this path.  So struggle we must, focusing on our own unworthiness when we are tempted toward anger and resentment toward anyone for any reason.  Like all spiritual disciplines, forgiveness teaches us humility because we do it so poorly. When our eyes are opened to that truth, we will know more fully our dependence upon the Lord’s mercy, as well as our constant obligation to extend that same mercy to others.
For the same reasons, we struggle to fast from the richest and most satisfying foods during Lent, as well as to give generously to the poor and needy.  Again like our first parents, we are more interested in making “provision for the flesh,” in satisfying self-centered desires than we are in obeying God.  Even small steps in fasting and generosity this Lent will help us catch a glimpse of our weakness, and thus serve as reminders that we need the merciful strength of our Lord to heal us from slavery to deeply rooted temptations.  The more that we struggle to live faithfully as those who have put on Christ, the more we will recognize our dependence upon His grace and love.   The more our eyes are opened to our reliance on His mercy, the more genuine the forgiveness we show to others will be, and the less we will try to impress anyone by our piety.  
If we approach Lent this way, we will remain robed securely in “the armor of light” as we gain the strength to live faithfully as those called to become ever more like God in holiness. We will strip ourselves of darkness and decay as we embrace the healing and restoration of our souls, our relationships, and the entire creation, in the New Adam, Who stopped at nothing, not even the Cross, the tomb, and Hades in order to bring us bring us into His blessed, eternal life.  If we approach Lent this way, we will be dressed spiritually in the most fitting way possible to enter into the joy of our Savior’s glorious resurrection on the third day.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Needy Neighbors and Strangers as Icons of Christ: Homily for the Sunday of the Last Judgment in the Orthodox Church

Matthew 25:31-46
It is easy to think that we have been successful in any endeavor before we are tested.  Students in college classes, for example, often think that they are doing just fine until they take the first examination.  Athletes may think that their team is the best until they lose the first game.  Cooks do not know how good a recipe is until someone actually eats the dish. And sometimes the challenges that reveal how well we have done are not those that we would have expected. 
            In today’s gospel reading, everyone was surprised that how they treated the sick, the hungry and thirsty, the stranger, the naked, and the prisoner—“the least of these” in society—was how they treated Jesus Christ.  The ultimate standard of their relationship to God, of their spiritual health, was shown in how they responded to the everyday challenge of caring for those in need.  By serving Christ in their wretched and miserable neighbors, some demonstrated that they were in union with the Lord, that His holy mercy had permeated their souls.  Others, by disregarding those same neighbors, had shown that they had rejected Christ, that they did not share in His life.  Some opened themselves to the life of the Kingdom in which they already participated in this world, while others shut themselves out of an eternal blessedness they had rejected bit by bit throughout their lives.  The judgment of the Lord in this parable is not some random decree, but a confirmation of who people had chosen to become through their actions.
            If we have been paying attention at all, we will know that Great Lent begins very soon.   The Church calls us to weeks of intensified spiritual struggle in which we devote ourselves to prayer, abstain from the richest and most satisfying foods, give generously to the needy, turn away from our sins, and extend and ask for forgiveness from those from whom we have become estranged.  We all need the spiritual disciplines of Lent for the healing of our souls as we prepare to follow our Lord to His great victory over death.
Today’s gospel reading, however, reminds us that the practices of Lent are not ends in themselves by any means.  If, like a prideful Pharisee, we believe that observing them fulfills what God requires and automatically makes us closer to Him than others, we will do ourselves more harm than good.  For the standard of judgment in today’s gospel lesson is not whose religious observance was the most austere or otherwise impressive.  No, the key issue in this passage is who we become in relation to the Lord as that is shown by how we treat others, especially those whom we are in no way naturally inclined to help.  Remember that all human beings bear the image of God, which means that we are all icons of the Lord.  How we treat an image of someone reflects what we think about that person.  So if we become the kind of people who ignore and disregard suffering neighbors and strangers, we turn away from Christ. Conversely, if we love and serve them, then we love and serve Him. 
The question is not simply what we say we believe or where we spend a couple of hours on Sunday.  It is whether we have truly become “partakers of the divine nature” by grace (2 Peter 1:4), whether “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20) The test is whether we actually live as those who have died to sin and been born anew into a life of holiness.  As St. James wrote in his epistle, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this:  to visit widows and orphans in their trouble and to keep oneself unspotted from the word.” (Jas. 1:27) And as St. John taught, we are liars if we say that we love God while we hate our brothers and sisters. (1 Jn. 4:20) 
In the world as we know it, there is nothing naturally attractive about following Christ to His Cross, burial, and descent into Hades. And there is nothing naturally appealing about serving suffering human beings in their misery and need. But if we serve only ourselves and abandon them, we abandon Him.  If we are to become the kind of people who do not deny our crucified Lord and run away in fear, we must learn to bear our own crosses, including the challenge of caring for those whose crosses are much heavier than ours.  Our Lord’s sacrificial love must become characteristic of us; otherwise, we will reject Him because, regardless of what we say we believe, we will want no part of a Lord Who reigns from a Cross and an empty tomb.
From Judas Iscariot to today, there have always been those who betray Jesus Christ for money, power, pride, or some other false god.  There are those who, even as they call themselves Christians, identify our Lord’s Kingdom with the corrupt ways of worldly kingdoms, who associate the way of Christ with ways that He clearly rejected, such as worshiping wealth and earthly power, judging others self-righteously and hypocritically, or hating people of different ethnic, religious, or national backgrounds.   Of course, it is appealing in every generation to think that all we find to be familiar, comfortable, and desirable must be holy—and that whoever we think our enemies are must be God’s enemies. It is tempting to hate and condemn people or groups whom we see as a threat to whatever we may want in life. No matter how attractive that way of thinking is, it amounts simply to idolatry, to identifying our ways with God’s ways and rejecting Him without even recognizing it.
If we are to prepare ourselves for a journey that leads to the Cross, to the sacrificial slaughter of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world, we must reject conventional and easy ways of thinking about religion that so easily lead us away from Christ.   Remember that no one expected a Messiah Who would associate with sinners, bless Gentiles and Samaritans, die on the Cross, and then rise in glory.  If we are to acquire the humility and faith necessary to follow such a shocking Lord, we cannot rest content with what is pleasing to us on our own terms.  No, we must open ourselves to His strength by humble repentance and obedience. 
This Lent, let us use our lack of enthusiasm for serving our neighbors as a reminder that we must pray daily for God’s strength and healing for our own souls.  Let us abstain from meat and other rich foods as a tool for learning to control our self-centered desires so that we may put the needs of others before our own.  Let us give money, time, and attention to bless those here and around the world who lack what we take for granted.   Let us take advantage of the opportunities all around us to serve our Lord in our neighbors.  The more that we embrace these disciplines with true humility, the more fully we will participate in the healing and restoration that Christ has brought to the world through His Cross and glorious resurrection. 
The Lord said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn. 14:15) If we call ourselves Christians, then we must obey Him.  If we dare to ask for the Lord’s mercy on us, we must show His mercy to others.  If we claim to be His followers, then we must learn to put others before ourselves, especially those we are not particularly inclined to help.  For as He taught, “In that you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”  If we use the disciplines of Lent to gain the spiritual health necessary to serve Him more faithfully each day in relation to neighbors and strangers, then we will be prepared to go with Him to the Cross and to enter into the joy of Pascha, to “inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  For as hard as it may be for us to accept, in our small efforts to help “the least of these,” we serve the Lord Himself Who died and rose again for our salvation.    

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Choose Repentance Instead of Shame: Homily for the Sunday of the Prodigal Son in the Orthodox Church

 Luke 15:11-32
          We have all had the experience of being ashamed of ourselves.  We had done, said, or thought something which probably seemed fine to us at the time, but which we later realized was simply terrible.  Sometimes when that happens, we catch a glimpse of truth about ourselves that is hard to bear.  Sometimes when that happens, we are paralyzed by shame, by a prideful refusal to accept in humility that we—like everyone else in this life—are very far from perfect and in constant need of our Lord’s mercy and grace.  Those who remain stuck in the rut of shame will face great obstacles in finding healing for their souls.
            The prodigal son in today’s gospel reading provides a wonderful example of how to get over wounded pride and repent of even the most shameful acts.  Remember that this fellow had given his father the ultimate insult by asking for his inheritance, which was basically to tell the old man that he was tired of waiting for him to die.  The father apparently meant nothing to this son other than as a source of cash that he could use to fund a debauched life.  The young man was apparently blind to the gravity of what he had done until he found himself in truly wretched circumstances, especially for a Jew.  In a foreign land, he tended pigs and was so hungry that he envied the food of the swine.  Then it dawned on him what he had done.  He came to himself and began the long journey home, knowing that the most he could possibly expect from his father was to become one of his hired servants. When he finally arrived at home, he said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” The son knew what he had done, made no excuses, and was not going to ask anything from the father other than to become one of his hired hands.  He knew the seemingly irreparable harm that he had done.  He had come to see clearly the seriousness of his rotten behavior.  He was well aware that his father owed him nothing at all.  He was totally dependent upon his mercy.   
            Before we continue with the story of the parable, we should pause to admire the courage and humility of the prodigal son.  After seeing how horribly he had treated his father, he refused to be paralyzed by shame.  He began the journey home, accepted the truth about what he had done, and was ready to accept whatever rejection, criticism, or awkwardness resulted from daring to show his face to the father whom he had rejected.  At this point, he had no illusions about himself, his behavior, or how it had impacted others.  He knew that he could hope, at the very most, to return to the household as a servant, not a son.  Nonetheless, he still took the long journey home.
            Had the son not done so, he would not have put himself in the place where it was possible for him to receive his father’s unbelievable mercy.  The father ran out to greet him when he was still a long way off, which shows that the old man had been scanning the horizon and hoping for this moment. When the father embraced him, the son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”  But before he could ask to become only a servant in the household, the father restored him fully as a son with a robe, a ring, shoes, and a party with music, dancing, and a great feast. For from the father’s perspective, he was not simply forgiving someone who had rejected and insulted him. No, he was celebrating a resurrection: “for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”
 Most of us do not have to think very hard to recognize times in our lives when we have done, said, or thought shameful things.  We usually do not like to be reminded of them because they challenge our pride.  Unfortunately, some of us go through life with a crippling sense of shame, which is more a reflection of our refusal to accept in humility the truth about ourselves than of anything else.  If we have the proper attitude, the intensified spiritual disciplines of the coming weeks of Great Lent can help to heal us from shame, for they are not only for you, me, or anyone else in particular.  They are a common calling of the Church because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  We have all failed to love the Lord with every ounce of our being and our neighbors as ourselves.  We are not perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. We have all turned away from fulfilling our vocation to become ever more like God in holiness.  That is why we all need the coming weeks of intensified prayer, fasting, generosity to the poor, and repentance.  Through them, we will come to know our true spiritual state more clearly and open ourselves more fully to receive the mercy of our Lord.      
Before the infinite holiness of God, we are all guilty of shameful thoughts, words, and deeds, but none of us should be stuck in a rut of pride that keeps us from taking the journey home.  Some disregard Lent and avoid Confession because they cannot believe that God would ever really forgive them for what they have done.  Today’s parable is a good remedy for that attitude, for the father in the story is an image of our Heavenly Father, Whose love is such that He will restore our dignity as His sons and daughters through our repentance.  His abundant mercy is eternal, but we must respond as the prodigal son.  That means acknowledging our failings, sincerely regretting them, knowing that we deserve nothing by our own merits, and actually beginning the journey home.
As we prepare for the spiritual disciplines of Lent, we must all keep the lessons of this parable squarely in mind, for it provides such a powerful image of what happens when we come to our senses and recognize our sins, turn away from them, and turn toward the Lord.  The overwhelming mercy of the father in the story is an image of the abundant grace of God.  For He does not settle simply with forgiveness, but restores us fully to the dignity of His sons and daughters.  He makes us true participants in eternal life by grace, not hired hands with some low level of blessing who somehow sneak into the Kingdom through the backdoor.  He does not scold or shame us, but truly welcomes us home with love beyond what we can understand.
            Sin is shameful because it is ultimately a rejection of our Lord and His blessed purposes for us.  Repentance, however, is never shameful because it is an acceptance of our Lord and His blessed purposes for us.  How tragic it would have been for the prodigal son to have remained as a starving laborer on a pig farm due to wounded pride, for him to have chosen such lonely misery over the joyful restoration that he found when he went home.  The same is true for us, no matter what we have done, thought, or said, no matter how far we have strayed from our Heavenly Father.

            The prodigal son’s return home was a resurrection from death to life, which is why his father called for such a great celebration.  Lent prepares us to follow our Savior to His Cross and the glory of the empty tomb at Pascha.  We must die to sin so that we will be prepared to behold with joy our Lord’s victory over death and to enter into eternal celebration of the Heavenly Banquet.  There is no shame in preparing ourselves to accept such a great invitation.  In fact, the only shame would be if we refused to accept it out of wounded pride.   

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Cultivating Humility: Homily for the Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican in the Orthodox Church

Luke 18: 10-14
There are some problems that have to be identified clearly and addressed plainly because they are so important, so fundamental to our life in Christ.  There are some temptations so subtle, persistent, and dangerous that we must always be on full alert against them because they have the power to destroy our souls.  Today we call ourselves to that kind of vigilance against pride, which often leads us to wander far from the path of the Kingdom without even knowing it.   
            In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, we encounter a man whom we would probably admire based on how he lived his life.  He was just in his dealings with others, did not commit adultery, fasted, and gave alms.  He appeared to be the model of righteousness.  But he had one fatal flaw that destroyed him spiritually.  That, of course, was pride as shown in his self-righteous judgment of other people, especially the publican or tax collector who was also in the Temple that day.
            Like Zacchaeus, this tax collector was a traitor to his own people by collecting taxes from his fellow Jews to pay for the Roman army of occupation.  He made his living by collecting more than was required and then living off the difference.  He was crooked and a collaborator with his nation’s enemies.  There was nothing admirable about the outward appearance of his life.  Who would not be tempted to look down upon such a person?  But this fellow had one tremendous virtue that healed him spiritually.  That, of course, was his humility as shown when he would not even lift his eyes up to heaven, but simply prayed from his heart as he beat his breast, saying “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”  The Lord explained the key difference between these two men in this way: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  The Pharisee sent himself down by the weight of his own pride, while the miserable tax collector was raised up by the Lord due to his humility.  
            Today we begin the three-week period of preparation for Great Lent, which begins this year on February 27.  Lent prepares us to follow our Lord to His cross and empty tomb.  It is a penitential season that provides tremendous opportunities for the healing of our souls.  But if we retain the spirit of the Pharisee, the disciplines of Lent will not bring us any closer to Christ; indeed, they will have the opposite effect.  For it is possible to attend services and pray at home in a self-congratulatory way such that, like the Pharisee, we are really worshiping ourselves and not God.  That is called idolatry.  It is possible to corrupt prayer and church attendance as ways to build ourselves up and put others down when we fall into the self-righteous judgment of others. It is possible to destroy the spiritual benefit of fasting, giving to the poor, and every other spiritual discipline through pride.  We will do ourselves more harm than good by approaching them in that way.  Spiritual disciplines are not ways of showing God how good we are or making us feel better about ourselves; instead, they help to open the eyes of our souls to the truth that each of us is personally the chief of sinners and totally dependent upon our Lord’s mercy and grace.
            This is an important lesson not only as we prepare for Lent, but for every day of our lives.  We face temptations all the time to put ourselves in the place of the angels and to view others as demons.  We may do that in relation to particular people who have harmed us or whom we do not particularly like, perhaps for good reason.  It may have to do with people or groups we do not know personally, but who inspire hatred and fear in us for whatever reason.  Without denying that harms have been done or that there are risks in the world as we know it, we must never allow our hearts and souls to be consumed by self-righteous judgment as though it were perfectly fine for us to celebrate how great we are in contrast to how rotten others are.  If we have ever fantasized about how some deserve condemnation and we deserve an award for good behavior, we have become the Pharisee.   
            Thank God, then, that we have seasons of intensified spiritual struggle, such as Great Lent.  For there is nothing like them to help us see the true state of our souls a bit more clearly.   Periods of intensified prayer make us aware of how far we are from being fully present to God in the services of the Church or in our daily lives.  Try to focus on prayer and you will likely be distracted by thoughts that seem almost impossible to control.   Something similar happens when we try to fast.  The call to abstain from the richest and most satisfying foods often reveals a fixation on how we simply cannot live without meat, cheese, and other rich food. And even when we change what we eat to lighter fare, the temptation to stuff ourselves remains.  The reminder to give generously to the poor makes us fear that we will become impoverished if we help, even in small ways, those who are truly in need.   We so easily justify extravagances for ourselves while others starve or lack basic necessities.   In other words, the spiritual disciplines of Lent call us to humility precisely because they reveal our spiritual weakness and brokenness.   They show us our pride because we are obsessed with putting our desires before God’s will, and we can always find someone to look down upon in order to feel better about ourselves.  When we struggle with these and other spiritual disciplines, they help us to gain just a bit of the spiritual clarity of that blessed tax collector who knew his own corruption so well that the prayer of his heart was simply “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
            The hard truth is that we will never grow in Christ unless we intentionally take steps that help us grow in humility, that help us embrace the truth about where we stand before the Lord.  To see that truth does not mean having ideas about ourselves or about God.  Instead, it means gaining the spiritual health to become more fully the unique persons He created us to be in His image and likeness.  Of course, we are called to holiness, but true holiness is incompatible with thinking that we are holy.  True holiness means becoming like Christ, Whose humility knows no bounds, not even the Cross and the tomb.  And since He calls us to become perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect, we are always in need of His mercy and grace as we press on toward an infinite goal that we may never say that we have fully met or mastered.  
            The key difference between the two men in today’s gospel reading is that the Pharisee was so spiritually blind that he thought he actually had done all that God required.  He even prayed to himself.  He apparently thought that he needed no forgiveness and was justified in worshiping himself and condemning others.  His was a very watered-down religion, ultimately a form of idolatry that was focused on the glories of his own life.  The tax collector was the complete opposite, focused only on his own need for God’s mercy as the chief of sinners. As we begin to make our plans for intensified prayer, spiritual reading, fasting, almsgiving, forgiveness, and repentance this Lent, we should focus on turning away from every form of self-justification and every form of condemnation of others.  We should embrace the spirituality of the Jesus Prayer as much as possible: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  We should look for opportunities in our daily lives to put the needs of others before our own, to live for others and not simply for ourselves.  And when we struggle and fail to accomplish what we set out to do, we should kneel in humility like the publican with no excuses, no passing of the blame, and no judgment of anyone else for any reason.  We should learn to see ourselves as the chief of sinners with nothing to present to the Lord except a plea for mercy and a humble resolve turn away from our sins and to turn toward Him in how we live our lives each day.   
            Our inflamed passions will tempt us to give up quickly when prayer, fasting, almsgiving and other disciplines are difficult.  If we make progress in any discipline, we will likely be tempted to focus on that and fall into pride.  We should be prepared for strange thoughts and odd desires to attempt to distract us.  We should be ready for a struggle, but it is precisely through the battle that we may acquire the humility that will open our souls to the healing power of the Lord Who lowered Himself to the cross, the tomb, and Hades in order to rise in glory and conquer all forms of corruption.  And if we want to share in the glory of His resurrection, then we must also lower ourselves by crucifying our passions, by dying to sin, and doing all that we can to destroy the corruptions of pride in our souls.  In other words, we must kill the Pharisee within us even as we cultivate the spiritual clarity of the tax collector if we want to follow Christ to His crucifixion and behold the brilliant light of the empty tomb.  The only way to do that is by being in the place of that humble publican who knew that he was the chief of sinners.  May we all follow his blessed example during our Lenten journey this year.