Daily Homily: Be Merciful To Me A Sinner

Third Week of Lent, Saturday

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Hosea 6:1-6
Psalm 51:3-4, 18-19, 20-21ab
Luke 18:9-14

Today’s readings continue a theme we saw yesterday: God desires our love more than the sacrifices of the Old Law. He longs for us to know him and enter into a relationship with him. He wants us to imitate his merciful love, a work of the heart, more than offer burnt offerings, an external work.

In the first reading, God finds fault with the fleeting piety of Israel (Ephraim) and Judah. They offer the right sacrifices, but these isolated actions come and go like a morning cloud or like the morning dew. True love, on the other hand, remains and brings us into communion with God, who will not spurn a contrite and humbled heart.

The second theme that Hosea introduces it that of mercy. Hosea knows that the day of God’s judgment is approaching. He uses the images of the dawn and spring rain to characterize the coming of the Lord. Just as we long to see the day, and just as we long for rain to water the earth, so also do we long for God’s presence. He is the one who will cure us and bind our wounds; he is the one who will wipe out our offense, wash us from our guilt, and cleanse us from our sin; he is the one who will raise us up on the third day.

The last part of today’s psalm, written during the time of the Exile, looks forward to the time when God will be pleased once again with sacrifice, burnt offerings and holocausts. As sinners, we need a sacrificial mediator; we cannot purify ourselves on our own; good intentions are not enough. The New Testament reveals that Christ, in giving his life, achieves a perfect sacrificial meditation for us. The Church shares in Christ’s sacrifice: on earth, the Church offers the sacrifice of compunction of heart and self-denial; in heaven she offers the sacrifice of praise, the sacrifice of the glory of the resurrection (see Blessed John Paul II, July 30, 2003).

Today’s Gospel parable offers a model of a contrite and humble heart in the tax collector. The Pharisee, by contrast, exemplifies the false attitude of self-righteousness. He thinks wrongly that the heart of the law is in the external works that he accomplishes – fasting and paying tithes. He thinks that he is justified by what he does. He does not thank God for his mercy or his gifts, but rather lists how he is unlike the rest of humanity. This is not a true prayer. The pharisee’s words are just thoughts about himself with the goal of exalting and glorifying himself.

The tax collector approaches God in a different manner. His head is bowed, his eyes are downcast, and he lifts up his heart to God in true prayer: «O God, be merciful to me a sinner». The tax collector does not multiply the words of his prayer unnecessarily, for God knows what we need even before we ask him. As a loving Father, God will give his children the good things that we need in order to reach him and share in his Glory.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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