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Lent Week 3 Saturday - Comparing with Others

Saturday, March 21, 2009
Readings: Hosea 5:15-6:6; Psalm 50; Luke 18:9-14

The parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector is a wonderful trap. It is so easy to find oneself thinking 'thank God I am not like the Pharisee in this story' - which is exactly the Pharisee's mistake, to compare himself with another human being rather than trying to see himself in the light of God. To avoid that we might say to ourselves 'well actually I am quite like the Pharisee - I too have complicated spiritual weaknesses, pride and such things - more challenging actually than the straightforward sins of the tax-collector' - and then we are back in the same position again!

So what are we to do? In the words of a Dominican friend during a 'practice homily' many years ago we are to 'compare ourselves only with God and thereby know our greatness and our nothingness'. Comparing ourselves with others is no way forward. Humility, as St Thomas says, is about truth, living in the truth about ourselves. What makes that possible is the assurance that we are loved. If we are secure in someone's love (and we are secure in Someone's love) we are free to accept the truth about ourselves, about our gifts without becoming proud and about our weaknesses without becoming depressed.

Lent is a time for seeking such truthfulness and what makes it possible is the security of knowing we are loved by God. Hosea tells us that God will tear us to pieces, slaughter us with the words from his mouth, and subject us to a judgement that rises like the light. What kind of love is that we might think? But what is destroyed by the power of this light is whatever is false, whatever is a sham, everything in us that belongs to the kingdom of the father of lies. What is established through God's judgement is the kingdom of truth and justice, a way of living that flows from the sacrifice of Christ's love. To live in that kingdom is to live in freedom and joy.


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