Saturday, March 10, 2018

Saturday word, 10 Mar 2018

Lenten Satuday3 (10 Mar 2018)
Hos 6. 1-6; Ps 51; Lk 18. 9-14
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J., Directed Prayer Weekend Retreat

Recall Jesus’ words to us on Ash Wednesday: …whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. …But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door….1

A hypocrite puts on an act. Scripture uses hypocrite in no flattering way. In the New Testament it means a religious or moral counterfeit. The image Jesus gives me is someone using peripheral vision improperly. Standing at street corners or in a worship space one pays undue attention to others: Do they notice me? Does she see what I’m doing? God may be in my words, but my heart is elsewhere. Any of us can see how that is possible.

Jesus made it clear in his parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector: the Pharisee well inside the synagogue; the tax collector standing afar off. Remember the Pharisee’s words? God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. That is praying with peripheral vision.

The tax collector’s prayer was such a contrast. He would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ That is praying with direct, steady vision. Jesus added that the tax collector…went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. How sweet felt the heart of the tax collector, even if he struggled still with how he lived! He savoured, too, his brave prayer of self-knowledge. True self-knowledge allowed him—and us—worthily echo the Psalmist: God I need you to give me a new spirit, a humane heart.

If true self-knowledge feels risky, you’re in the right place. Being here allows all of us to let God tell us who we are; and to welcome God into any area of our lives that needs divine help, that help we cannot give ourselves. Silent solitude helps that happen.

Silent solitude also allows us to notice challenge and assurance: Jesus will challenge us if we persist in using spiritual peripheral vision; Jesus will reassure us to see ourselves with direct, steady vision. Both Jesus’ challenge and his assurance are gifts that help us be our true selves.

  1. Matthew 6.5-6.

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