09Mar 9 March. Saturday of the Third Week in Lent

9 March. Saturday of the Third Week in Lent

Ho 6:1ff. God desires steadfast love and not external sacrifices.

Lk 18:9ff. The Pharisee and the tax collector pray in different ways; a lesson in humility.

First Reading: Ho 6:1-6

“Come, let us return to the Lord; for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us; he has struck down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his appearing is as sure as the dawn; he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes away early. Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have killed them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Gospel: Luke 18:9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Not just Mouthing Words

If we use our Bible well, we have a rich resource of guidance for every occasion. However, it’s not just knowing the words that matters. From them we might muster a purely verbal response and wrap a mantle of piety about our motives and so feel very proper and self-righteous. But even the devil can quote Scripture for his purpose, as Shakespeare noted! If a little learning is a dangerous thing, a lopsided Bible scholarship can be still more perilous. Bible study becomes illusory if not accompanied by sincere conversion of morals, and humble prayer.

The certainty of God’s answering our prayers was deeply embedded in Israel’s tradition; and Jesus shows the same confidence. Hosea quotes the liturgical prayer: “Come, let us return to the Lord,. . . He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up.” This theme of salvation on the third day occurs frequently enough in the Old Testament – and Jesus stands within this biblical tradition by his rising from the dead “on the third day.”

God certainly answers prayers, but is displeased by the mere mouthing of words. For words to become true prayer, it is not enough that they be sanctioned by tradition and used in a solemn setting. Words become prayer, says Hosea, when joined to a humble love and knowledge of God. The Pharisee and the Tax-collector have very different approaches to prayer. One spends his time telling God of his virtues and achievements; and the other just asks for mercy, fully aware of being a sinner. Jesus makes very clear which is the better approach!

One Response

  1. Darlene Starrs

    Yes, there is a lot of posturing in our Catholic Christian Community today, from pew, to altar, to the Vatican! Posturing, is mainly “imposturing”. Who is sincere in their faith? Who is not sincere in their faith? Ultimately, only God knows for sure, as He says, “I, alone, know, what is in the hearts of men and women”. We also know of the scripture: “You shall know them by their fruits”, but again, it’s not hard to fake, generosity. I’m sure a lot of philanthropists, were only that, philanthropists. People often do supposedly Christian and Humanitarian deeds, because it brings them notoriety and warm fuzzies. Angels of darkness may appear as angels of light! St. Paul talks of “noisy gongs and clanging symbols”, these are those, who talk a good talk, but have no real connection to God’s love…….As Jesus says, “Oh they know how to say, Lord, Lord, but their hearts are very far away from me”. In the story above, the Tax Collectors heart was very near to God, but the Pharisees, heart, was not. The cultural and religious expectation would have assumed the opposite situation. Another way, of saying, “The First Shall be Last, and the Last Shall Be First”, or “The Pure in Heart Shall See God”. I hope we know, that, the Vineyard, the Church, has its noisy gongs and clanging symbols, its goats and weeds, but we also have the wheat, the sheep, and the true disciples. Let us pray, that we are ever mindful, that the Lord, is the Lord of our lives, and that, we do not need posturing and imposturing, if we are really, in love with God, allowing his Word to Dwell richly in us, and allowing him, to direct our steps back to Our Father/Mother God.