“Come, let us return to the Lord;
for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;
he has struck down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him.
Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord;
his appearing is as sure as the dawn;
he will come to us like the showers,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”
What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that goes away early.
Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets,
I have killed them by the words of my mouth,
and my judgment goes forth as the light.
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
Psalm 51: 1-2, 16-19
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin.
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
then you will delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
For the past few weeks, every state and community has been reacting to COVID-19. With quarantines in place, businesses closing up and limiting hours, and numbers of confirmed cases changing almost hourly, the outlook seems dark. Yet, on the other hand, treatments for the virus are being discovered and rapidly put into distribution. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The readings today offer a great deal of spiritual encouragement and direction for where we are in the midst of COVID-19.
The first reading speaks of how God will raise us up and how his appearing is as sure as the dawn. Even in the middle of darkness and uncertainty, the one thing we can be sure of is that God is with us and will not leave us to suffer. His coming is as sure as the dawn. “He will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
While the first reading offers us hope for relief, all the readings give us our directive for how to approach God in prayer. In the gospel, Jesus compares the tax collector with the Pharisee in the temple. The tax collector cries to God for mercy admitting he is a sinner. The psalm and the end of the first reading both declare how God does not desire sacrifices and offerings but love and knowledge of God. The sacrifice acceptable to God is broken and contrite heart.
Today, with the hope and faith in God’s promise that he will come to us and revive us, come to him on your knees in prayer. Offer him the sacrifice of your contrition and your heart. God will be pleased and you will be justified. Humble yourself before God and he will raise you up.