3rd Saturday of Lent
Hosea 6: 1 – 6; Ps 51; Luke 18: 9 – 14
The Prophet Hosea was a man who, penetrated by the Spirit of God, was blessed with the knowledge of God – not total knowledge such is impossible for any human, prophet or not. As a man called by God to proclaim this knowledge, he had a profound conviction of the truth so he could say in God’s name: “For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
In the parable addressed to the self-righteous only one of the two men in the temple area knew God. As they stood there, one actually prayed and the other boasted. Their stance, a distance apart, with the Pharisee despising the tax collector was also a sign of each one’s personal relationship to God.
For the Pharisee, God is merely an audience, to be spoken at, to be impressed at his list of virtues. Did he expect God to applaud? In reality he had set himself at a distance from God.
For the tax collector, God is the source of all mercy and forgiveness to be addressed with humility and contrition. Before his God his simple, passionate prayer “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” drowned out the conceited boast of the other. And in reality, by his honest admission he had set himself close to God.
Both went home – the one immensely satisfied with his boasting and the other humbling grateful for God’s merciful embrace.
As people given to prayer each day, especially our private prayer known only to God and ourselves – what marks our prayer? What inspires it? A need to speak at God with our own self-righteousness or address our God with a heart, humble and contrite?
Dare I, you look into our prayer? Dare I, you seriously consider what we present to God? I believe, the Lord in giving this parable to us would answer a resounding Yes!! Recall His words about the true disciple, the one who prays in truth: “Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7: 21)