Today, in Mercy, our two readings encourage us to be humble and repentant.
In the reading from Hosea, God is very clear:
For it is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God
rather than burnt offerings.
In our Gospel, Jesus tells us the parable of the proud Pharisee and the humble tax collector. The Pharisee’s prayer shows his judgmental self-satisfaction with all the sacrifices he’s made:
O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity — greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’
On the other hand, we have the scorned tax collector ( a status we can understand this time of year:-) who admits his weakness and need for God’s mercy.
Oh God, have mercy on me, a sinner!
The readings are really about seeing ourselves in the light of God’s truth, while knowing that our merciful God loves us infinitely, even in our weakness. They are about being open to that mercy so that we can know the fullness of God’s grace.
Today, in Mercy, Hosea, the composer of passionate love songs, tells us this:
I will heal your weaknesses, says the LORD, I will love you freely; for my wrath is turned away. I will be like the dew for you: you shall blossom like the lily; You shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth your shoots. Your splendor shall be like the olive tree and your fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. Again you shall dwell in the shade and raise grain; You shall blossom like the vine, and your fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
The passage sings of new life, strength, vigor – the hope of Easter! Today as we pray, what withering branches in our lives do we wish to place in the warmth of this promise?
In our Gospel, the good scribe asks for Jesus’s confirmation that he is on the right track to holiness. Jesus blesses him by saying:
You are not far from the kingdom of God
God is so good to us. Let us ask God’s generous help as we seek to grow in holiness, goodness and peace this Lent, so that we may be blessed by the same promises.
Today, in Mercy, our readings bring us Hosea, the poet-prophet who lived eight centuries before Jesus.Although his warnings to Israel are stern, Hosea was, at heart, a lover – just as he imagined God to be.
Hosea tells us his personal story of marrying an adulterous wife, forgiving her, and welcoming her back to his love. He uses his own experience to challenge Israel, the “adulterous”, idolatrous beloved of God.
Hosea’s passionate poetry gives us the language and imagery of intense intimacy with God, a God who “allures”, “espouses”, and calls himself “husband”. It is the language of an unbreakable devotion and covenant.
This imagery can enrich our prayer and help us to deepen our realization of how much God loves us. God loves us as a parent would, as a friend would, as a lover would, as a spouse would. Still, God loves us beyond all these, beyond our human comprehension.
Any human love will always remain between two distinct beings. But Divine Love created us and lives within us. We are the very Breath of God Who, in loving us, loves the Divine Self into being.
In our prayer today, what a joy to surrender ourselves to this Amazing Love!