Friday, March 20, 2009

3rd Week of Lent: Saturday

FIRST READING (Hosea 5:15-6:6)
Thus says the Lord: "In their distress they seek me, saying, 'Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, that he may heal us; he has stricken, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his going forth is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.'

"What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? What shall I do with you, O Judah? Your love is like a morning cloud, like the dew that goes early away.

"Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets, I have slain them by the words of my mouth, and my judgment goes forth as the light. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings."

GOSPEL (Luke 18:9-14)
Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others:

"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.'

"But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!'

"I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."

We can learn a lot from the two men in today's reading who went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee did everything right from a theological perspective, but he was not acceptable to God. The tax collector seemed to do everything wrong, but he went home justified before God. Let us consider why that was so.

Pharisees were an accepted renewal group within the Jewish faith that believed the right things, even by later Christian standards, such as the eternal life of the human spirit and justification by faith. They believed God looked at the intentions of the heart rather than mere fulfilment of external ritual of the law, although they were strict about external fulfilment.

Pharisees even had right beliefs about the Messiah. They knew where and when he would be born. They knew he would teach as no man had taught before. They knew he would be rejected by the religious leaders. They knew he would die by Roman crucifixion. They knew he would rise on the third day and give his Spirit to all nations, not just the Jews. They knew all this, yet still did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

The Pharisee was proud not to be a tax collector, who was usually a Jew who betrayed his people by working for Rome and who indulged in immoral living funded by riches gained by cheating his own people. Yet the tax collector in today's reading went home from the temple justified because he knew he was a sinner who needed mercy. He made no pretence of holiness. He simply confessed his sin and honestly begged God's forgiveness whereas the Pharisee made an art of hiding behind theology.

Do we have the honesty of the tax collector in confessing our sins? Or do we use theology to cover our sin? Be honest before God. Admit your sins and thank Him for your successes. Don't hide either. Then you will be justified by God.

(from John Michael Talbot's Blog)

Lord our God,
great, eternal, wonderful in glory,
who keepest covenant and promises
for those that love thee with their whole heart;
who art the life of all,
the help of those that flee unto thee,
the hope of those who cry unto thee;
cleanse us from our sins, secret and open,
and from every thought displeasing to thy goodness,
cleanse our bodies and souls, our hearts and consciences,
that with a pure heart and a clear soul,
with perfect love and calm hope,
we may venture confidently and fearlessly
to pray unto thee. Amen.

From the Coptic Liturgy of St Basil


Post a Comment