Today’s Saint: Dominic Savio (April 2, 1842 – March 9, 1857)
Hosea 6:1-6 – Ps. 51 – Luke 18:9-14
“My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.” (Today’s Responsorial Psalm 51)
The above verse from Psalm 51 – the “mesericordia psalm” – often leads folks to “poo-paw” any sense of Lenten sacrifice since we repeat four times the response: “It is mercy I desire, and not sacrifice.” But doing that is like throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Look back at the end of the reading from Hosea which says, “…it is love that I desire… and knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” This can only mean, that without love and knowledge of God, sacrifice – in and of itself – amounts to nothing. I’ve always tried to get people over the “hurdle” of Lent being a marathon race of holding your breath until noon on Holy Saturday. Love, mercy and knowledge of God. Another “three word phrase” that needs to be a part of our awareness of what Lent is supposed to be all about. Authentic love always takes us out of ourselves and finds its completeness only when it bounces off another. In this case we make God the recipient of our love and the reverberation comes back to us in the form of mercy. When we come to this point we are experiencing “knowledge of God!” The problem that we are shown in the parable in today’s Gospel Scripture is that the Pharisee (that name means, separated ones) thought of himself as already there and in no need of God’s mercy. “Love” wasn’t probably even in his vocabulary and he certainly didn’t seem to have any real knowledge of God. For him, it was all externals: “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity …and look at all the things I do to please you! ” When you come right down to the nitty-gritty of it – our “bottom line,” – we all have to come before God – not with a bag full of our accomplishments – but rather with a sense of what “knowledge of God” really means: His love and mercy towards us is inexhaustible. It’s not what I do for God but rather what God is doing for us. When we come to this awareness – knowledge of God – He surprises us with His “You ain’t seen nothing yet! You are not far from the Kingdom!” Amen!