13 March, Saturday — Have mercy on me, a sinner

Saturday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Hos 5:15-6:6
Lk 18:9-14

“God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

We are now in the midst of the Lenten season. How are things going for you? More specifically, have you kept to your Lenten resolution? Like many Catholics, you would have likely made some kind of resolve at the beginning of this season to do or not do some things. This is probably the most common approach to improving our spiritual lives, and indeed, we need some kind of structure and discipline so that God takes priority over many other concerns of daily life.

The first reading for today ends off with a very meaningful verse — “…what I want is love, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not holocausts” (Hosea 6:6). In the gospel, the Pharisee’s prayer focused on his actions and deeds. He has taken great care to avoid the sins of being “grasping, unjust, adulterous”, and makes the effort to fast and pay tithes regularly. Surely, he is doing all the right things? But when the focus falls on one’s actions as an indicator of holiness, it becomes tempting to quantify and compare. As such, the Pharisee concludes that he is holier than the tax collector. The tax collector was a convenient choice, as he was already despised in the society of that time, due to the nature of his job. But God does not want meaningless sacrifice. He is after our hearts. Taking pride in his sacrificial actions, the Pharisee fails to see beyond his own judgemental attitude and, in the process, fails to set himself right with God.

The tax collector, in contrast to the Pharisee, utters only one sentence. In that one utterance, he throws himself at the Lord’s feet in shame and humility, recognising the weight of his sin against God. We do not know his good or bad deeds, only that he has put aside his own pride and is letting God take over to forgive and heal him. Is this not a true cry of repentance? And is this not Jesus’ proclamation right at the beginning of his ministry in Mark 1:15 – “Repent, and believe the Good News”? This Lent, let us find the opportunity to participate in the sacrament of reconciliation with a humble heart, so that we can experience God’s mercy and forgiveness.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)

Prayer: We pray that as we continue with our Lenten practices, we can grow towards a closer relationship with God.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for examples of true humility in scripture, in the lives of the saints, and in the people around us.

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