Scripture: 1st Reading: Hos6,1-6; Resp. Psalm: Ps51,3-4,18-21; Gosp. Accl.: Ps95,7-8; Gospel: Lk18,9-14
God loves the sinner. Our God spares nothing to bring the sinner back to Him. Our God desires mercy for the sinner, to reveal to the sinner the immensity of His compassion. Our God desires to demonstrate to the sinner that the enormity of his sins pales to insignificance when compared to His mercy and faithfulness. Our God "desires mercy and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings."
This is the God we serve. This is why self righteousness and arrogance leads no believer anywhere. In our life with the Lord, there is the great need to acknowledge in humility the unworthiness of our lives, our weaknesses, our inabilities and our hidden shames. This is because because it is foolhardy for a sick person to hide the details of their ailment from the doctor.
The word of God today cautions us severely on self righteousness especially when we think we are in the right in our relationship with God. The word cautions that ultimately, God does not just by appearances but by the content of the heart. It cautions us to understand that we may pretend before men but we cannot pretend before God. It cautions us never to look down on anyone or esteem ourselves holier than them because God is the Judge who sees where the eyes of man cannot see.
It is therefore important for us to consider the state of our individual journey with the Lord. The Pharisee in today's gospel was not interested in his journey but in the tax collector's journey. The Pharisee had judged the tax collector a citizen of hell by virtue of the profession he was engaged in. The Pharisee prayed with pride and insolence. He made himself and his accomplishments in religion the center of his prayer. Instead of glorifying God, he engaged in self exultation and glorification. He went before God to boast. He actually prayed to himself and not to God. He exalted himself and was thus humbled.
Our return to God is not for self praise. Our return to Him is for us to be healed from our wounds. The word of God in the First Reading teaches us that our return is for us to be raised up by God. Our return to the Lord is to avail us the opportunity to know Him better, know Him more. Our return to Him is for God to come back to us "as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth."
We are to return to the Lord to renew our love for Him. We are to return to Him so that our love can have sure foundations and stand the test of time, not like the love of Judah that Prophet Hosea says is like "a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away." Lent gives us the opportunity to return to our God. It gives us the opportunity to ask Him to give a firm foundation to our love for Him.
Let us pray: "Rejoicing in this annual celebration of our Lenten observance, we pray, O Lord, that, with our hearts set on the paschal mysteries, we may be gladdened by their full effects." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.