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Saturday, Third Week of Lent

April 2, 2011

Blessed St. Francis of Paola’s Day!

You can read his story here.

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)

If God were to look beneath the surface of your religion, would there be anything to see?

He does, you know, and if there’s anyone who can’t be fooled by appearances, it’s God!

Not as man sees does God see,
because man looks on the appearance
but the Lord looks into the heart
-I Samuel 16:7

Sometimes He doesn’t even need to look that deep.
A few hours’ time reveals just how hollow our promises are:

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

Talk about fair-weather friends!

Sometimes, though, we’re actually pretty good at following through.

I am not like the rest of men–grasping, adulterous, crooked…
I fast twice a week.
I pay tithes on all I possess
-Luke 18:11, 12

What more could God want?! This man is doing everything right!

On the surface, you’d think so…but for all the wrong reasons.
He’s acting as if religion were a mere mechanical device
for the exchange of goods and services (albeit spiritual ones).
Push this button and get what you want, all under your own control; strictly business.

God protests:

This people pays Me lip service, but their heart is far from Me
-Isaiah 29:13

Their heart is far from Me.
This is what breaks the Heart of God.
He’s not looking for self-serving yes-men
who will push the right buttons to make treats fall from Heaven.

God is a Person, not a thing.
So are we.
That makes a difference.
We may use things…but the only proper response to a person is love
giving of yourself for another’s best good (see Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility).
God has adopted us as sons (see Romans 8:15-16).
He’s looking for love.

For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice,
and knowledge of God rather than holocausts
-Hosea 6:6

This love needs to be expressed.
This is what religion is for–it’s meant to be the form of our expression of love for God.
Even if we do it badly, God vastly prefers a genuine attempt at love
over the polished presentation of a pretender.
That’s why the tax collector went home justified (see Luke 18:13-14).
He was real.
When God looked beneath his rough exterior, He found a sincere heart.

What about you?
If God looked beneath your religious practises,
would He find a heart that was trying to love Him,
that put effort into drawing near Him and getting to know Him,
however inadequate you may feel?
That’s what makes His Heart sing.

I tell you, there will be more joy in Heaven over one repentant sinner
than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent
-Luke 15:7

May God find in us His Heart’s desire.

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