“It Is Love I Desire”
In his beautiful hymn based on today’s first reading from Hosea Gregory Norbet tells us God is pleading: “Come back to me with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart.” What a wonderful prayer for each day of Lent, especially in these days of uncertainty.
As we reflect on Hosea 6, we hear: “Let us strive to know the Lord; as certain as the dawn is his coming, and his judgment shines forth like the light of day! He will come to us like the rain, like spring rain that waters the earth…. Your piety is like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away. For this reason I smote them through the prophets, I slew them by the words of my mouth; for it is love that I desire, not sacrifice and knowledge of God rather than holocausts.”
Jesus certainly reaffirms Hosea’s message in our Gospel from Luke: “Then Jesus spoke this parable addressed to those who believed in their own self-righteousness while holding everyone else in contempt.” The parable is the familiar story of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee is proudly proclaiming how he is not like the rest of men – or even like this tax collector. On the other hand, the tax collector accepted his own unworthiness and prayed: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
Luke tells us that this man went home justified but the other did not. “He who exalts himself shall be humbled while he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” What will our prayer be like for the rest of these days of Lent? We are in the midst of troubling times as a pandemic has shuttered many of our houses of worship. Do we need to publicly proclaim how profound our prayer is? Or can we quietly offer our sacrifice of love to God? It may be a good time to reflect on just how well we KNOW Jesus and not just know about him.
How willing are we to find Jesus in our hearts as well as in our public worship? Our world will look much different in the coming weeks and our ordinary ways of celebrating this most sacred season will surely be altered. Let us pray that those who are on the front lines of defense for all of us are shielded from the disease so they may continue their most valuable work. Let us pray for the wisdom to listen only to those who actually know science and medicine and can guide us with their expertise to be careful not to panic. And let us pray for all who have already become ill that they may place their suffering in the hands of God and recover quickly.
May the Passion of Jesus be ever in our hearts.