Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
Hosea 6:1-6 Psalm 51:3-4. 18-19. 20-21ab Luke 18:9-14
The Holy Scripture teaches us that anytime we pray or offer sacrifice, God listens to us, but the acceptance of our prayers by God depends on how we pray or what we ask for. This is so crucial that in the Lord’s prayer, Christ taught us to say “Thy Will Be Done”. God listens to our prayers because he says that “even before you finish praying, I will answer (Isaiah 65:24). This is shown in the story of Cain and Abel in the Old Testament and as we read today, in the prayer of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
God hearkens to the inward appeals of our hearts. However, He is not impressed by any kind of arrogance, empty babbles that imitate prayer or mindless recitation of prescribed formulae of prayer. Our words can become prayer only when they rise from a humble heart. Both the pharisee and the tax collector acknowledge the importance of prayer but the difference resides in the intention. While the pharisee was acknowledging his own virtues and achievements – I mean praising himself –, the tax collector, aware of his sinful condition with eyes cast down and striking his breast, humbly asked for mercy; “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”
It is good to be grateful to God and pray for whatever we have, life, husband, wife, children, wealth, work, friends etc. or whatever we are. Pride comes in when we seem to think or believe that we have got all what we own only by our own effort. Consider the prayer of the pharisee “God, I thank you that I am not like other men... I fast twice a week, I give tithes...” I, I and I, where is the place of God in this prayer? One can say that this man went to the temple just to show off, so that people can say he/she is a good man/woman. Like some of us, he did all what was required of a devout Jew namely, he fulfilled the commandments, he fasted, he gave tithes (which is good) but he forgot what is essential – faith and trust in God –. He failed to see the hand of God in his life and all what he achieved as by the Grace of God.
Very often, we too behave like this Pharisee. We identify ourselves as Christians and are proud of being Christians, but our lifestyle, disposition and attitude, do not reflect a Christian mindset. Sometimes we are full of pride, and boast about fulfilling our duties in the Church while at the same time despising our brothers and sisters in the same Christian community. Nothing repels God as pride.
Before God, no one can boast of being good. Before Him, no one is justified. This is why every good thing we do, have come as our response to the Grace of God working in us. The only disposition to hold before God, in the face of our human achievements or uprightness is humility, for God humbles the proud but exalts the lowly. Let us let God be God over us, and make ourselves God unto ourselves.
Let us pray God the Father, I ask pardon for my pride, teach me be content with all I have, help me to examine my heart diligently and root out my own weaknesses. We ask this through Christ our Lord who live and rein in the unity of the Holy Spirit one God forever and ever.