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Saturday, third week of Lent

March 21, 2009

Blessed Saturday!

Lord, make this Lenten observance
of the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ
bring us to the full joy of Easter.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer for today’s Mass)

Readings:
Hosea 6:1-6 (God wants changed lives, not bribes)
Psalm 51:3-4, 18-21 “It is steadfast love, not sacrifice, that God desires”
+Luke 18:9-14 (the proud Pharisee vs. the humble tax collector)

We’re good at fooling ourselves, at parading our “piety”, impressed by how “good” we are.

We’re not so good at fooling God.

“What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your piety is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that early passes away” (Hosea 6:4)

The proud Pharisee had the same problem, although in a different flavor. “I give You thanks, O God, that I am not like the rest of men–grasping, crooked, adulterous–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I pay tithes on all I possess” (Luke 18:11, 12). Assume for a moment that every word he said was true. He kept the commandments, even going above and beyond in self-denial and generosity. This was no passing fancy. But Jesus assures us that he did not go home justified. He was still missing something.

“It is love that I desire, not sacrifice,
and knowledge of God rather than holocausts” (Hosea 6:6)

That should sound familiar…Jesus just told us that the Law and the Prophets can all be summed up by a command to love. Yes, true love is sacrificial, but that doesn’t mean that all sacrifice is love. Not all sacrifice is done for the benefit of the beloved. In fact, sacrifice cannot be for the benefit of the beloved if we haven’t bothered to learn what’s best for them. You cannot love what you do not know. Knowing God and loving Him stand or fall together.

The tax collector, for all his sins, knew God (and himself) better than the zealously religious Pharisee. “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). He knew that God loves humility.

“He has shown you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you;
only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

True humility, like love, covers a multitude of sins (see I Peter 4:8), precisely because it is not self-absorbed. It’s open, receptive to God’s healing mercy. God couldn’t heal the sins of Judah and Ephraim or of the Pharisee because their hearts were closed. They did not want what He had to give. If there’s one thing that breaks God’s Heart, this is it.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often have I yearned to gather your children as a mother bird gathers her young under her wings, but you would not” (Matthew 23:37). “Coming within sight of [Jerusalem], He wept over it” (Luke 19:41).

My we rejoice the Heart of our God with open-hearted humility, receptive to His healing Love.

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