21 March, Saturday – Have mercy on me, a sinner

Hosea 5:15-6:6
Luke 18:9-14

God, be merciful to me, a sinner

In this period where we are not able to attend mass and receive the Eucharist, I have been reading articles and listening to podcasts in an attempt to fill the spiritual gap. One of the recommendations I came across is to pray the Jesus prayer. The prayer goes like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me.” It originated from the desert fathers, who repeated the prayer continually (akin to reciting the rosary) as part of their ascetic practice. The Jesus prayer is a combination of three bible verses from Philippians 2:6-11, Luke 1:31-35 and the parable in today’s Gospel passage.

In his boastful “prayer” to God, the Pharisee gauged the level of his sinfulness by the sins that he did not commit. There was no mention of his own sins, and he also took the opportunity to take a dig at the tax collector whom he obviously despised. He also seemed to take pride in his “holy” actions of fasting and tithing, as if these would protect him from sin. The tax collector, in contrast, simply opened his heart to God, acknowledged his sins and appealed to God for mercy and forgiveness.

We may think that we are not like the Pharisee, so self-absorbed in his rituals and religious practices. The recent unprecedented absence of mass attendance in my life has led me to realise that I have always relied on my participation at weekly mass as a kind of crutch to assure myself that at least I am in contact with God once a week. Whether I do my daily prayers and reflections may not be that important. Now that my crutch is gone, I am forced to re-look at my own spirituality. I was also struck by an article I read that described how people in the past had little access to priests and would receive the Eucharist only once a year. That really led me to wonder how I take the Eucharist for granted. Mass is always a privilege, and should come on top of daily communion with God through constant prayer and surrender. “What I want is love, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not holocausts.” (Hosea 6:6)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Thanksgiving: We thank the Lord for the opportunity to grow closer to Him, to ponder in silence at His will, while we continue to pray for greater wisdom in dealing with the current pandemic.

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