Humble Yourself In The Presence Of God
In today’s first reading from the book of prophet Hosea, God laments about the lack of genuine piety, saying to the chosen people: “It is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” The psalmist follows this up with: “For you are not pleased with sacrifices; should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it. My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs us on how to pray and walk humbly before the Lord using the parable of the Pharisee and the publican who went up to pray in the Temple of the Lord. The Pharisee prayed upon himself arrogantly displaying his virtue and justifying them above the tax collector whereas the tax collector just prayed for mercy and forgiveness and realized how unworthy he was before the presence of God.
The pharisee did not acknowledge his unworthiness and so there was no contrition in his prayer whereas the publican stood far off and wanting not to look up he recognized his guilt. A prayer of contrition fosters our dependence on God and not our self-gratification. Walking humbly before the Lord and asking for mercy leads to holiness. At the end it is the prayer of their tax collector that was acceptable before God.
The purpose of Lent is to humble our hearts, to love, to offer mercy, and to become more like Christ. Any external behavior we choose must be directed toward that interior goal, or it is not only in vain but worthless. It is not what God seeks. Whether you began Lent deciding to give up the usual thing or you carefully chose to do something to make a difference, don’t stop there. Use the scriptures and liturgies, the inherent awareness of suffering and mortality, and the grace of this sacred season to go deeper.
Let us walk humbly before the Lord. Sacrifices before the Lord that lacks love is not acceptable. Prayers, fasting and almsgiving that is made only for outward show or self acknowledgment our God reject. May we seek always the mercy of our God and may we meaningfully renew our covenantal relationship with God and go out into the world more humbled, loving, contrite, and Christ-like.
Fr Joseph Osho