Scripture: lectionary 243. Hosea 6:1-6. Psalm 51:3-4.18-19.20-21. Luke 18:9-14
Hosea gives us our Lenten plea that guides us through this day: “Come, let us return to the Lord.” The Hebraic way of speaking of our repenting and coming back to the Lord is through the word for “turn.” In the synagogue there is a type of confession or reconciliation during the most solemn days. They call the process of returning to God “Teshuvah.” This is more down to earth than our Greek word “metanoia” which refers more to the mind than to the whole person who in the Hebraic thought turns and turns till God’s face is seen. Hosea speaks of this throughout his prophesy and today is a perfect example of it.
God’s love not his mind is summoning us to return to him “with all our hearts.” Love is so much more powerful and marvelously mysterious than simply understanding or changing our mindset. Hosea ends today’s passage this way:”It is love I desire, not sacrifice; knowledge of me (which means love in Hebrew) rather than sacrifice.”
Psalm 51 is one of the best psalms for Lent and we hear parts of it throughout the days of Lent. The response actually comes from Hosea, but captures what the rest of the psalm 51 says in the total Psalmody for this day: “It is steadfast love, not sacrifice that God desires.” We respond with the psalm (51):”my sacrifice is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.”
Jesus’ parables lead to action. The religious leader is a good person, but his prayer is self-centered and his mind is judgmental. The prayer of the tax collector is very humble—he does not even look up into the sanctuary and the Holy of Holies, yet he is more justified (made holy) by his prayer. The parable confirms Hosea’s words and those of Psalm 51. God is always there to bring the sinner back especially when there is a change of heart, a Teshuvah, that is a returning to the right path that leads to the path leading us to the face of God. We pray with our tax collector, “Be merciful to me a sinner.” Jesus concludes the lesson of the parable with his simple yet profound words, “Everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled; while he who humbles himself shall be exalted.” Amen.