Readings: Hosea 5:15-6:6, Ps. 51:3-4,18-21, Luke 18:9-14

“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

On Ash Wednesday, we heard Jesus say that we should not pray publicly to attract attention to ourselves. Pray secretly, and God, who sees you secretly, will reward you. Today, Jesus gives us a parable of a Pharisee who, in the name of prayer, insulted a tax collector. The tax collector felt ashamed of himself; he stood at a distance and could not raise his head. How do I resemble this Pharisee? What is my attitude towards persons I consider unworthy of heaven? When I beg for mercy, do I express sorrow for my sins? These are some of the questions we shall consider today.

1. Avoid Comparing Yourself With Others: This parable teaches us to repent from vices such as using others to measure one’s progress in life, making others look small and unimportant, talking about people in a bad light, praying against others, etc. Repent from the philosophy of “I beta pass my neighbour.” Avoid thinking you are nothing unless what you have is bigger, better, more sophisticated, or more expensive than others. Only compare yourself with who you were yesterday. Seek to improve, not to impress. Religion is between you and God, not between you and anyone else.

2. Remove the Logs in Your Eyes before the Specks in Others: God is not a man who can be deceived. If you believe you have no sin, it is only because you have not examined your conscience and are too busy analysing the faults of others. Do you know if you would have done better if you were exposed to the same temptations they faced? Do you know their background, the kind of home training they got, the scandals they were exposed to, and the battles they have fought?

3. Pride Casts a Shadow on Righteousness: The devil was the most perfect of all the angels; he had all the virtues but lacked humility. Pride is the most difficult vice to detect. Do you feel that some persons are not worth associating with (or are not supposed to be in church at all, not to mention receive Holy Communion) because of their lifestyle and bad habits? You are proud. Assuming you discover that you are completely sinless, does this give you a right to praise yourself or select who comes to church? Jesus says anyone who exalts himself will be humbled.

4. Help to Bring Them out of Darkness: Many of us gossip about other people’s faults, but we never try to help them repent. We may not have the courage to tell them the truth to their face, but we go about destroying their reputation. Jesus preached in the synagogues, but he knew those who needed him the most were not the church-going holier-than-thou hypocrites. He said: “I came to call sinners, not the righteous, to repentance.” If you are aware of someone’s sin but have never attempted to convert them, you have no right to shame them. Honey gathers more flies than vinegar.

5. Never Be Afraid to Pray When Your Conscience Bites Hard: Sometimes, we feel unworthy of approaching God’s presence. We even skip our prayers or stay away from Holy Communion. This is a very serious mistake. Satan, the accuser of the brethren (Cf. Rev. 12:10), capitalises on our guilt to make us wallow deeper and deeper in sin. Satan, the liar per excellence (Cf. John 8:44), tells us that God is angry with us and there is no need to pray. Meanwhile, God is waiting for us to return home like the father in the story of the Prodigal Son. The best time to pray is not when you feel like the Pharisee (when you think you have been doing well) but when you are in the shoes of the tax collector.

God does not reject the prayer of the humble and contrite, who can honestly beat his chest and say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Don’t be ashamed to pray right after you realise you have sinned. Your heart may condemn you, but God will never condemn you. You may struggle to forgive yourself, but God has forgiven you. In today’s first reading, God says through the Prophet Hosea, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, save me from all Pharisaic attitudes. Forgive my sins and help me to remain in your house. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Saturday of the 3rd week of Lent. Bible Study: Hosea 5:15-6:6, Ps. 51:3-4,18-21, Luke 18:9-14).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu