(Source: CD/Vatican News)
“Today, I would like to remember families who cannot leave their homes” due to coronavirus lockdowns, Pope Francis said at the beginning of the Saturday morning liturgy at the Casa Santa Marta chapel.
“Perhaps the farthest they can go is their balcony… May they know how to find a way of communicating well, of building loving relationships within the family. And that they might know how to conquer the anguish of this moment together in the family.
“We pray for peace in families today during this crisis, and for creativity.”
During his homily, the Pope focused on the two different styles of approaching God presented in the day’s Gospel (Luke 18:9-14).
Coming to the Lord
“When that ‘return home’ from yesterday’s reading touches the heart, the response is ‘Let’s return to the Lord’,” the Pope said at the beginning of his homily.
“Come, let us return to the Lord… He has torn us to pieces, but He will heal us; He has struck us down, but He will bandage our wounds… Let us set ourselves to know the Lord; that He will come is as certain as the dawn…”, he quoted from the First Reading (Hosea 6:1-6).
“With this hope the people begin their journey to return to the Lord. One of the ways to find the Lord is through prayer. We pray to the Lord. We return to Him.”
Presumption vs. humility
The Pope then contrasted two styles of approaching the Lord. He provided three examples from the Gospels: the elder son and the prodigal son, the rich man and Lazarus, and the Pharisee and the tax collector from the day’s Gospel.
The Pharisee in the Gospel is the epitomy of the presumptuous style.
“He goes to pray, but in order to say how good he is — as if to say to the Lord, ‘See how good I am! If you need anything, let me know and I’ll take care of your problem’. This is how he interacted with God: presumptuously. Perhaps he did everything the law said to do: ‘I fast twice a week. I pay tithes on all I have. I’m good!’… When we go to the Lord too confident in ourselves we will fall into presumption… like the elder son, or the rich man who didn’t need anything.”
The other style, modeled by the tax collector in the day’s Gospel, shows us the right way to approach God, the Pope said.
He doesn’t approach the altar but remains at a distance, not even daring to raise his eyes to heaven.
Beating his breast, the tax collector says, “Be merciful to me a sinner”.
“In this way, the Lord teaches us how to pray, how to draw near…to the Lord – humbly… Praying with our souls exposed, without make-up or dressing ourselves up with our own virtue.
“As we read at the beginning of Mass, He forgives all our sins. But He needs us to show them to Him… I pray face to face with soul exposed…
“The way is to lower ourselves. The path is our reality.
“The only man here in this parable who understood his reality was the tax collector. ‘You are God and I’m a sinner. That’s the reality.’ But I say that I’m a sinner not with my mouth but with my heart.”
The Pope’s Prayer
“May the Lord teach us to understand this attitude in order to begin praying”, the Pope prayed, concluding his homily.
“When we begin praying with our own justifications, with our securities, that’s not prayer. That’s like speaking to a mirror.
“Instead, when we begin praying with our true reality – I’m a sinner – this is a good step forward in allowing the Lord to look at us. May Jesus teach us this.”