Saturday of the Third Week of Lent, March 18, 2023

We cannot save ourselves by rites and practices. Sin is forgiven and lasting happiness found in an encounter of love with God. If we recognize that we are sinners, people who have failed at times and who could do better, we recognize that our love is still very limited, and then, there is room for growth. God bandages our wounds and raises us to life. He saves us from our failures. He makes us grow in the life of Christ.

Opening Prayer
Lord, our God,
you yourself remind us through your holy people
that all our religious practices,
even this Eucharistic sacrifice,
are not worth anything
if we use them to bend you our way.
God, may we come to you
in humility and repentance,
ready to encounter you in love
and to turn your way.
Accept us as your sons and daughters,
together with Jesus Christ,
your Son and our Lord for ever. Amen!

1 Reading: HOSEA 6:1-6
“Come, let us return to the LORD, it is he who has rent, but he will heal us; he has struck us, but he will bind our wounds. He will revive us after two days; on the third day he will raise us up, to live in his presence. Let us know, 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.” What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? 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 burnt offerings.

Responsorial PSALM: 51:3-4, 18-19, 20-21ab
R. (see Hosea 6:6) It is mercy I desire, and not sacrifice.

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me. R.

For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. R.

Be bountiful, O LORD, to Zion in your kindness
by rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem;
Then shall you be pleased with due sacrifices,
burnt offerings and holocausts. R.

Verse before the Gospel: PSALM 95:8
Glory and praise to you, oh Christ!
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.
Glory and praise to you, oh Christ!

Gospel: LUKE 18:9-14
Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘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.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Worship God and not the self
“God, I thank you”. This is a great beginning for prayer because gratitude is the best prayer. Immediately, though, we see the reason why the Pharisee gives thanks: “that I am not like other men” (Lk 18:11).
Pharisaism is not about a particular people or a particular religious tradition. It’s the human condition that infects all people and all religious traditions. It is real today as it was in Jesus’ times. It deceives us into trusting in ourselves and seeing ourselves as righteous while looking at others with contempt. When I play the Pharisee, the only right way is always my way, or the way of my country, the way of my religion, the way of my church.
Pharisaism is the mother of profiling or labelling, be it on the basis of race, gender or religion. Profiling happens when I look at the appearance, accent, lifestyle or life choices, faith, beliefs and practices of another human being and make conclusions and judgments about their value, dignity, motives and desires, intelligence and abilities, holiness and goodness.
Those conclusions and judgments are always in my favour and against the other. This is what the Pharisee does to the tax collector in today’s gospel. “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 to the temple.” He boasts because he fulfils particular commandments but forgets the greatest commandment: to love God and our neighbour.
The tragedy of this man is that he is without love. Without love, he ends up praising himself instead of praying. In fact, he asks nothing from the Lord because he does not feel needy or in debt, but he feels that God owes something to him. He stands in the temple of God, but he worships a different god: himself. And many “prestigious” groups, “Catholic – Christians”, go along this path.
For the Pharisee, his neighbour has no worth, no value. He considers himself better than others. They are “leftovers”; they are scraps from which they prefer to keep a distance.
How many times do we see this happening in life and history? The true worship of God is always expressed in the love of one’s neighbour. Let us examine ourselves and see whether we, too, may think that someone is inferior and can be tossed aside, even if only in our words. Let us pray for the grace not to consider ourselves superior, not to believe that we are better than others. Let us ask Jesus to heal us from speaking ill of and complaining about others. Because these things are displeasing to God.

– That we may acknowledge before the Lord that we are still wounded people in need of healing, we pray:
– That we may not be concerned about outward appearances, but that our life and actions may be sincere and transparent, we pray:
– That we may not boast to the Lord what we have done for him but acknowledge what he has done for us, we pray:

Prayer over the Gifts
Lord, our God,
we have not come together here
to justify ourselves before you
or to boast of our merits.
We simply ask of you, Lord,
to accept us as we are
with our goodwill, our lame efforts
and our half-hearted conversions.
Accept us with the sacrifice of your Son,
who stays with us and lives with you for ever. Amen!

Prayer after Communion
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
we have celebrated with your Son
the memorial of his sacrifice.
Give us the strength now
to make our everyday life
into a living proof,
that we are one with him
and that we follow him
on the way through death to life.
Let him stay with us,
now and for ever. Amen!

God will heal us and bind up our wounds. We do not boast about ourselves but about the patient love and goodness of the Lord. May Almighty God bless and heal you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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