Reflection based on the readings for Saturday daily Mass, not the vigil Mass. Readings can be found by clicking here on the USCCB website.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” - Psalm 139:23-24
Prayer: Lord, You humble the proud and exalt the lowly and afflicted. Help us to see the true character of our hearts. That we are complex gifted and wounded. Help us to allow You to strengthen our goodness and allow You to heal and correct those areas in our hearts that still need purification. As You make them known to us, let us surrender them more fully to You. Amen.
Today our readings from Hosea remind us of the healing strength of God. We are reminded that even though we are sick on account of our sins God is there to help us, if we are willing and open to Him. God speaks through Hosea saying, "Come, let us return to the LORD, it is he who has rent, but he will heal us; he has struck us, but he will bind our wounds." And then we get words that speak to the moment to Israel at that time and yet beautifully prepare us for the days the Lord comes to us in the flesh. The conclusion that Hosea brings the Israelites to is the same that Jesus tries to do in the Gospel, "For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings."
Our Gospel in the introduction to why Jesus gives us this parable in the first place should pierce us to the heart, "Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else." The two people in the parable the Pharisee and the tax collector show us two different hearts. One looks to themselves, their strengths, their deeds, their notoriety, how they are seen by other people. There is mention of God, but God does not seem like He is seen. The telling that Jesus gives us reveals the true character of their heart, perhaps they never even learned what true prayer is or forgot about it in pursuit of their own righteousness and how others see them. Or perhaps they just have a skewed sense of identity and who they should be. Jesus tells us, "The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself." Terribly sad words, 'spoke this prayer to himself.' Hopefully those in attendance who Jesus was speaking to heard this.
For us if it rings true in whole or in part about our own righteousness and pride, Jesus gives us hope in the second part of the parable. In a beautiful way not only does it draw a stark comparison, but it shows us the path to healing and receiving the mercy of God. A tax collector is one who has turned their back and people, their own people. And by extension God Himself. The reason why one would be a tax collector is their own, but the assumption is love of money, places of honor, and self-interest. This tax collector has been humbled by God. And as a result, is seeking God. The tax collector knows that his actions have distanced himself from God, that he has sinned, and needs God's mercy. Scripture says, "But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’"
To return to God is to hear His voice and be changed. What is God saying to you? Are you feeling humbled in big ways or small? Some small ways may be the judgements, the first reactions, the way we speak that arise in our hearts toward others. In all these things we strive to hear God's voice to let Him reveal the areas that need healing and then continue listening as He sets out the path for our healing.
May God richly bless you!