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Jesus is Not a Checklist

First 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: 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. It is mercy I desire, and not sacrifice.
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. It is mercy I desire, and not sacrifice.
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. It is mercy I desire, and not sacrifice.

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.”

NAB

march 5

“Ok, I need to throw in a load of laundry before we leave for the post office, then I need to make sure I hit the gym before coming home. Once the baby is down, I need to get a load of dishes started and begin my work hours. I should shower, I should definitely shower. What should we have for dinner? I need to get to bed early tonight. Oh and pray! I need to make sure I pray sometime today.”

My mind rambled off my scattered to-do list in the morning as I wiped yogurt off my son’s face and guzzled down coffee like a marathon runner to water. I pulled out a post-it note and scribbled down my “game plan” before any detail could escape my mind.

Except one little detail did. The prayer part. The afterthought. The “I know I should be making time for this and reminding myself to do it will make me feel like I’m at least making an effort” part.

But here’s what the Lord has to teach me: He is not another item on my to-do list. He is my to-do list. Nothing on my to-do list makes sense or is made possible without Him. Time with Jesus in prayer is not something that I just need to get done, it’s a time to rest my heart in His and let myself be before Him.

Sure, I may feel good about myself if I rattle off my nightly prayers like a good little Catholic. I may even scoff at other people who “aren’t as disciplined in their prayer life” as I am. But really, of what use am I?

The Lord desires mercy, not sacrifice. And no matter what I do to check off a box and puff up my chest, what God desires is a chest beat in humility. What God desires is a chest filled by a heart of pure love for Him, a chest assured by His constant presence throughout the day.

So the next time we are tempted to make time with the Lord just another thing that stands between us and a “successful” day, let’s remember this truth.

Let’s all spend some quality time with the Lord today. The kind of time not fueled by agendas, but by the desire to just be with Him.

photo credit

Olivia Spears is a middle school religion teacher turned SAHM who is married to her high school best friend. You can find out more about her here.

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