Hosea, commonly referred to as the “prophet of doom,” writes: “The Lord has torn us so he may heal us; struck us down so he can bind us up.” The overall message is reconciliation through repentance results in salvation.
In the parable from Luke, the Pharisee prays he is righteous, sacrifices, fasts and tithes. He is proud he is not like the “immoral” tax collector. The tax collector, however, is afraid to lift his eyes towards heaven and humbly asks God to be merciful for he is a sinner and goes home “justified.” But the Pharisee did not receive justification. Why? The Pharisee, boastful in his righteousness, belittled the tax collector. Does this mean we shouldn’t strive to follow God’s laws and do good things? No, it means the most important aspects of Christianity are humility and repentance.
In Psalm 51, God does not seek sacrifice and burnt offerings. He seeks a broken spirit and a contrite heart.
These readings actually meld together (for me) into a strong Lenten message encouraging me to examine my own Christian response. Do I truly humble myself to God and really seek repentance? I pray this Lenten season with a contrite heart, to be broken, healed, uplifted…and never feel that I am better than another seeking God’s mercy.