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March 30: Saturday of the Third Week of Lent

Reading Hosea 6:1-6
Gospel Luke 18:9-14

“… for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled….”

Jesus cautions us in this morning’s Gospel passage. Even as we pray to God, our words of thanks can easily turn in on ourselves. The Pharisee did not give thanks to God for the gifts God have given him. The Pharisee did not give thanks to God for the good that the Pharisee had been able to do for others. The Pharisee gave thanks for himself, because in his own eyes he was “not like the rest of men.”

In the person of the tax collector, Jesus is teaching us of the primacy that humility plays in the spiritual life. Before the tax collector can give thanks, he knows he must first beat his breast and ask pardon from God. Unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector realizes that he is just like “the rest of men”. In humility he pleads God for mercy.

Through this parable, Jesus is teaching us a basic lesson about the spiritual life. In his own person, however, he teaches us something even more important. Jesus himself was not at first “like the rest of men”. Rather, “for us men and for our salvation / he came down from heaven: / by the power of the Holy Spirit / he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” Before he came down from heaven he was true God; after the Annunciation, He was both true God and true man.

Before we give God thanks for our salvation, we plead to Him for mercy. But before we plead to God for mercy, we give Him thanks for having sent His sent to become human, to show us how to be humble.