A PRAYER PLEASING TO GOD
The tax collector "goes home justified" because he seeks God with humility, rather than with pride, and has true sorrow for his sins.
The first reading, today, contains a prayer that God speaks through the prophet Hosea, and which He intends for the people in Hosea's community: "For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than holocausts" (Hos 6:6). It would be good to take some time today and truly reflect upon this reading. The Responsorial Psalm we read, today, is the most recited of all the penitential Psalms. It can be seen as the response of Israel to Hosea's prophecy while they are in captivity: "My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit; God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart" (Ps 51:19).
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus' parable speaks about the nature of prayer and our relationship with God. Jesus does this by contrasting two very different attitudes toward prayer. The Pharisees represent those who take pride in their religious practices, and who exalt themselves at the expense of others. Today, we hear about a Pharisee who is absorbed in his own sense of self-satisfaction and self-congratulation. His prayer is centered on himself rather than on God. On the other side of the coin, the tax collector humbles himself before God and begs for mercy. The tax collector "goes home justified" because he seeks God with humility, rather than with pride, and has true sorrow for his sins.
Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves and ponder on during our reflection time: How is Lent going for me? Has it been easy to enter into this time of year or has it been difficult, and, why is it going this way for me? Is where I am OK? Each day is a new beginning on one's journey through life. In times of difficulty, we can look to the prophet Hosea as a witness of living with an unwavering faith. This is why I recommend spending some time meditating on this reading.
Hosea gives us two things on which to focus our attention and efforts. First, he challenges us to be persons of steadfast love. We can express this by being part of our Church community and reaching out to someone in need, or just by doing something special for a family member or friend. Second, Hosea calls us to deepen our knowledge of God, not simply to know about God, but to know Him in a personal way - to be in relationship with Him. We need to be aware of His Presence in our lives.
Are you and I humbly seeking God's mercy, and showing mercy to others, especially to those whom we find difficult to be with?