SATURDAY, THIRD WEEK OF LENT
Hos 6: 1-6; Ps 51: 3-4, 18-21; Lk 18: 9-14
WE PRAY FOR YOUR MERCY, O LORD
The liturgy of the day focuses on prayer, and the two readings challenge us to look into the way we pray. The book of Hosea proclaims the need to pray for mercy. God desires to forgive us and restore us to live in his presence. Through the parable of Pharisee and tax collector, the gospel teaches us how to pray for mercy. The Gospel story sets before us two ways of prayer, two ways of life, two paths that people call religion. The prayer of the Pharisee is self-centered, while that of the tax collector flows from a humble and truly repentant heart.
Is it possible that we might be praying like the Pharisee? It comes down to our understanding of how we shall be saved. Do we attain salvation by strictly following the external laws of religion, or are we saved by God’s mercy? The Pharisee believed he could ‘win’ salvation by his fasting and his following of the religious laws. With this attitude of entitlement, he did not present himself before God as a servant; rather, because of his ‘faithfulness’, God was obliged to show him mercy. On the other hand, the tax collector, knowing the state of his soul, did not dare to ask God for anything other than to look upon him with mercy, for he knew that he was unable to save himself. Thus, he entrusted himself to God’s mercy.
This is a story that ought to make us look in the mirror. Do we find in ourselves a similar attitude? Do we judge our fidelity to Christ based on our faithfulness to the rules and rituals of the Church? Do we think that our salvation depends on how ‘good’ a Church-goer we are? If so, this attitude of self-righteousness will also reflect in our prayer. Like the Pharisee, we might think that we are pleasing God, but in reality, we are only pleasing ourselves. Our prayer doesn’t become a praise of God, but a praise of ourselves; not an expression of trust in God’s mercy, but of trust in our own capacity. May we learn how to pray this Lent.
Response: I desire steadfast love, and not sacrifice.
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