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Saturday, March 21, 2020

Reflection: 2020-03-21 Saturday 3rd Week of Lent

Hosea 5:15b-6:6; Psalm 51; Luke 18:9-14
Yesterday, we discussed about returning to the Lord. Today’s readings show us what that means. The First Reading tells us that when the people acknowledge their guilt and seek the face of the Lord, they will cry out to him. They will invite people to return to the Lord. They speak of God forgiving them and healing them, just because they acknowledge their guilt and seek him and cry to him. But the Lord responds as if in exasperation: What shall I do with you? Your love disappears like the morning cloud. The repentance is shallow. They repent, not because they are truly sorry for their sins, but because they want to be healed. And once healed, they go back to their old ways. Which is why God said: I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Our actions ALONE do not indicate repentance. The parable Jesus gave in the Gospel shows this. The Pharisee went to pray and commend himself to God. He spoke of the things he did, to prove his righteousness to God. Even in his prayer, it was all about himself. God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income. He spoke of God once, he spoke of the tax collector beside him, once, and even in a derogatory manner. And he spoke of himself four times! Our actions do not produce repentance. Jesus said about the tax collector:
  1. He stood far off. He could not even come near before God or the people.
  2. He beat his breast because his heart led him to beat his breast.
  3. He said: God, be merciful to me, a sinner. He begged God for mercy. He did not boast of his riches but instead, he came with a humble and contrite heart. Jesus said, this man went home justified.
This is why David said in the Responsorial Psalm today: a broken contrite heart, O God you will not despise. We return to God, confess our sins, not because we want to be healed of our miseries, but because we realize we have offended the one who loves us.

Repentance is a commitment. It is an act of the will, to turn away from our sins and to return to God. While confessing our sins is a good start, it does not end there. Many Catholics think that just because they went to confession, they are forgiven and they can go back to their old way of life. Confession does not work that way. If there is no full commitment to leave a life of sin, the sins we confessed are not forgiven. If this is my idea of Confession, then I am like that Pharisee who justifies himself because of his “good works”.

In the First Reading, God tells his people, he wants two things:
  1. Steadfast love. This is a love for God that is steadfast, consistent and lasting, and not like what God described, like the morning cloud that vanishes early. This is an act of the will and not based on emotions. Emotions are like the morning cloud that fades, while the will decides and follows through with action.
  2. Knowledge of God. This knowledge goes beyond intellectual or academic knowledge of God. Church history has shown us that those who preached heresy are the ones who think they know God more than others. The knowledge this refers to is one that comes from an intimate relationship. It is one that comes from listening to the heart of the one we love, in this case, God. But how can we listen to the heart of God if we do not love him?
Jesus said in John 6:37 Whoever comes to me, I will not cast out. The Greek is more emphatic, it uses two words to mean not. Literally, it means: Whoever comes before me, I will never, ever, drive them away. This is the Divine Mercy of God as seen through Jesus. When we return to God, he will never ever drive us away.

Have you ever wanted to return to God and do not know how? Jesus calls you back. We do not go to the doctor AFTER we are healed of our sickness. We seek the doctor when we are sick. We do not come to Jesus after we sort out our lives. Jesus accepts you as you are. All he wants is a commitment to reject a life of sin, to reject trusting in our good works. Instead, to trust in his mercy to save.

Ephesians 1:3-4 tells us even before he created the world, God has given us ALL spiritual blessings in the heavens because he has chosen us to live before him in holiness. God wants to give you a life of wholeness, a life of rest and peace. Whatever you have done before, whatever sin you have committed before, you may be experiencing guilt, despair from your past sins. There is no need to be afraid.

Decide to love Jesus and come to Jesus. Let him heal you and make you whole.

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