Hosea 5:15 -6:6 / Luke 18:9-14
God speaks through Hosea; “I want love, not sacrifice.”
A news reporter was on assignment in Clay, Kentucky, in the 1960s. A black woman, named Gordon, was going to try to enroll her two children in an all-white school. On Sunday the reporter stopped in at the local white church, where worship was in full swing. The congregation was praying mightily and singing lustily. After the service one of the pillars of the white church talked to the reporter. He told the newsman that he would rather have his taxes tripled to pay for separate schools than have the races mixed in the same school.
Do we worship God on Sunday but ignore his teaching the rest of the week? “The test of worship is how far it makes us more sensitive . . . to Christ in the hungry, the naked, the homeless, and the prisoner.” John Robinson, Honest to God
When we review how our prayer life is going, we may be able to notice how our prayer life has changed in the way we pray. We may have started off by reciting formula prayers like the Our Father and Hail Mary and the Rosary. After a while we may feel we want to move on to a deep form of prayer and we will practice meditation on the Word of God and other forms of deeper prayer.
Then we might want to go further and pray to God in a spontaneous way and we start composing our own prayers. Whatever form of prayer we might have adopted, what is essential is not so much what we say or do in prayer. Rather it is the awareness in prayer; the awareness of who we are with. When we realize who we are with in prayer, then we will also realize who we really are.
In the presence of God who is infinite love and mercy, we can only humbly admit that we are nothing without Him and that we constantly need His love and mercy. Whatever words we might use in prayer and whatever thoughts we might have, let us always remember the prayer of the tax collector in the gospel: God, be merciful to me, a sinner.
Saturday of 3rd Week of Lent - Liturgy
GOD SEES WHAT IT IS IN US
We cannot save ourselves by rites and practices. Sin is forgiven and lasting happiness found in an encounter of love with God. If we recognize that we are sinners, people who have failed at times and who could do better, we recognize that our love is still very limited, and then, there is room for growth. God bandages our wounds and raises us to life. He saves us from our failures. He makes us grow in the life of Christ.
- Come, let us return to the LORD, it is he who has rent, but he will heal us, LHM
- he who has struck us, also will bind our wounds, CHM
- as certain as the dawn is his coming, and his judgment shines forth like the light of day, LHM
Lord, our God, you yourself remind us through your holy people that all our religious practices, even this Eucharistic sacrifice, are not worth anything if we use them to bend you our way. God, may we come to you in humility and repentance, ready to encounter you in love and to turn your way. Accept us as your sons and daughters, together with Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord for ever.
Ritual has meaning when it is the expression of an inner spirit. Otherwise practice becomes an empty shell. The scriptures today illustrate this principle with considerable clarity. Hosea speaks to Ephraim and Judah, the northern and southern kingdom of the Hebrew people. They have long since shown their lack of an authentic commitment to the Lord; their expressions of faith are transient and vanishing. Their piety is like a morning cloud, like the dew that quickly passes away. Yet the ritual continues, but to no avail. “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” The Gospel today goes on to make an added point in saying that one cannot judge by externals. The Pharisee was a member of a respected and benefice Jewish body; the tax collector was the employee of a foreign power, an occupying force. The Pharisee practiced worthy expressions of faith—fasting and tithing—but it had led to self-adulation and very clear shades of superiority. The tax collector, with head bowed, could make no religious claims, but his heart was right. In a spirit of sincerity, he simply asks God’s mercy. It is he who went home justified, totally dependent on the goodness of God. Since comparisons are odious, we do well to avoid them. If we strive to be faithful, it ill behoves us to compare ourselves with others, who, at least by external standards, show little or no effort. Paul tells us that if anyone would boast, he should boast in the Lord. We are what we are by the grace of God to whom we remain deeply grateful. A man cannot get to daily Mass but never fails to stop in church for a short time as an expression of his faith. Religious is ultimately a matter of the heart, a theme to which Christ returns time after time. My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit, a heart contrite and humble you will not spurn.
Points to Ponder
Religious practice versus a religious spirit
A piety that vanishes as quickly as the dew
Humility, a recognition of God’s goodness
– That we may acknowledge before the Lord that we are still wounded people in need of healing, we pray:
– That we may not be concerned about outward appearances, but that our life and actions may be sincere and transparent, we pray: – That we may not boast to the Lord what we have done for him but acknowledge what he has done for us, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord, our God, we have not come together here to justify ourselves before you or to boast of our merits. We simply ask of you, Lord, to accept us as we are with our goodwill, our lame efforts and our half-hearted conversions. Accept us with the sacrifice of your Son, who stays with us and lives with you for ever.
Prayer after Communion
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have celebrated with your Son the memorial of his sacrifice. Give us the strength now to make our everyday life into a living proof, that we are one with him and that we follow him on the way through death to life. Let him stay with us, now and for ever.
God will heal us and bind up our wounds. We do not boast about ourselves but about the patient love and goodness of the Lord. May Almighty God bless and heal you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.