Breakfast with the Word Saturday 3rd Week of Lent
A priest recounts the story of a mad man that made a very strong impression on Him. This priest has the attitude of coming in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament every morning in the chapel.
The chapel is located just a little distance from the church building. Whenever the priest comes in the Lord’s presence He would see this man who appears always tattered prostrating before the Blessed Sacrament and shouting “God forgive me I have sinned”.
This somehow distracts the priest, because he preferred a silent moment before the Lord. Every day He meets this man, he would see him shouting “God forgive me, I have sinned”.
In one of his visits, he could not withstand this any longer. He decided to drop a note for the man at the position, he usually stays. The priest wrote, “ The Lord has forgiven you? You can now change your prayer”.
When the man read this, he wrote back to the priest and said “Read Lamentations 3;22-23”. The book of Lamentations 3:22-23 says “The steadfast love of God can never cease; His mercies will never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
The priest was amazed and saw the reason the man does this every morning. The mercy of God is new every morning. As the day dawns, so is the grace and mercy of God.
The Gospel of Today.
In today’s gospel of Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells the story of the tax collector and the pharisee who goes to the temple to pray. The pharisee recounts how virtuous he is and how he is always keeping the law.
In his prayer, he reminds God how he is different from the tax collector. He sees himself not as a sinner but as someone very righteous.
He enlists how he fasts twice a week and pays all his tithes, thereby ending up without saying a single prayer. But the tax collector stands far off and tells God how sinful he is. He pleads for God’s mercy. Jesus extols the last person for his humility.
Humility Before God.
To drive to the true message of this gospel we need to understand the reason for this parable.
Before this parable, Luke says that Jesus tells the parable to some people because of how they pride themselves as people who are virtuous and then despise others.
In the parable, Jesus uses the Pharisee as an example, which in essence indicates that He is referring to them. Hence, Jesus uses this parable to teach them that the Lord’s presence requires nothing from us if not our humility.
Whenever we are in God’s presence, we have to humble ourselves despite however virtuous, and righteous we are.
The Missing Link.
If we critically analyze the gospel of today in Luke 18:9-14, we will surely discover that the Pharisee was not condemned by Jesus. The Pharisee could be a good person.
From the parable, it is a sign the Pharisee approaches God in prayer. He also recounts many good qualities in him. However, He did not pray at all. Instead of praying, the pharisee is busy praising his efforts and the good things he thinks that he does.
The problem of the pharisee is that instead of trusting in the mercy of God, he trusted in his efforts and righteousness.
He has already seen himself as better and justified. He thinks that through his fasting, prayers, alms giving etc, he can now command God to do whatever he wants at will, just like many of us do today.
1. There are times when we face problems and challenges, instead of seeking the mercy of God, we begin to recount how we did nine days novena, how we fasted forty days and forty nights and yet nothing happened. We begin to get angry with God. Doing this in essence means we also trust in our righteousness rather than the mercy of God to see us through.
2.. In the gospel, the tax collector prostrates himself and seeks only the mercy of God. Instead of focusing on any good deed he has done, He focused on God.
When we come in the Lord’s presence, what we need is to rest on the mercy of God. The good things that we do and the efforts that we make are not to control God.
We do them because they are what we are supposed to do as children of God. We do not do them to manipulate God. Despite however righteous you are, always rest on the mercy of God.
3. Our relationship with God is like a father-child relationship. Always go in His presence like a child. In Matthew 18:3-5, Jesus says; “unless you humble yourself like a little child, you will never enter the Kingdom of God. Humility is the key.
4. The prayer of mercy and forgiveness touches God the most. In the bible, all those who uttered that simple statement “Lord have mercy on me” were not abandoned. During prayers, we have to relax and rest on the mercy of God rather than our efforts.
God sees your efforts and rewards them, but they are not like a button to tell God what to do and what not to do. Always seek to rest on His merciful heart.
5. Let us quit seeing ourselves as holier while others are the most sinful. Sometimes this type of attitude degenerates into pride. When you think, you see heaven every day, there is this temptation of seeing yourself as the next to God. Yes, you pray and attend masses daily, but these should make us more humble than proud. Even when you think you are the most holy, always rest on the mercy of God. We need His mercy every morning and every day.
6. Never stop asking for the mercy of God whenever you come in his presence, and never stop going for confession on the ground that you do not sin. It is a great deception from the evil one. No saint did that. Let us always constantly seek the mercy of God.
The mercy of God is new every morning. Never begin your prayers without asking God for forgiveness. Always rest on the mercy of God.
May God have mercy on us and give us the grace to seek Him with all our hearts. Amen