Daily Reflection – Mar 5, 2016
Saturday 5 March 2016
First Reading: Hosea 5:15 – 6:6
It is steadfast love, not sacrifice, that God desires
Psalm 50(51):3-4, 18-21
Gospel Reading: Luke 18:9-14
Today’s Note: Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
Jesus addressed this parable
to those who were convinced of their own righteousness
and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself,
‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity —
greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week,
and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
But the tax collector stood off at a distance
and would not even raise his eyes to heaven
but beat his breast and prayed,
‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former;
for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
O God, be merciful to me. (Luke 18:13)
Listen carefully to the way Jesus described these two men as they prayed in the Temple. The Pharisee “prayed to himself,” boasting of his life of sacrifice and discipline. You can just see him patting himself on the back, saying, How good I am! How far superior to that miserable tax collector there behind me! (Luke 18:11-12).
By contrast, Jesus portrays the tax collector as praying out of genuine sorrow for his sin. He wasn’t driven by any sense of self-satisfaction or pride in his accomplishments. On the contrary, he seems to have recognized that nothing he did on his own could ever make things right. Instead, he confessed his need for divine mercy: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
These two characters offer us a concrete illustration of God’s words to the prophet Hosea centuries earlier: “It is love that I desire, not sacrifice” (Hosea 6:6). God wants our love and affection, first and foremost. No amount of sacrifice or good deeds can make us pleasing to him, only a heart that is open to Jesus and the salvation he has won for us on the cross. The things we do are very important to God, but on their own, they can never make us right with him.
Where the Pharisee revealed a boastful self-reliance, the tax collector showed humble repentance and trust in God. If we want to go “home justified” like the tax collector—that is, if we want to know the freedom of a living relationship with God—we have to put aside any stubborn self-reliance and place our faith in Jesus and the atonement he has won for us (Luke 18:14).
This may sound like a tall order—and somewhat theoretical as well. But if you spend time with God in prayer and Scripture reading every day, it will happen. You’ll discover that God wants to do more that just make you an obedient servant. He wants to make you his friend—and to do that by removing the sin that separates you from him. And most important, you’ll find yourself loving him in return.
“Father, thank you for having mercy on me, a sinner. Let my life be useful to you and bring glory to your name.”