10th Sunday after Pentecost 2.8.15 Fear of the Lord
The publican had it right because he acknowledged his nothingness before God.
The pharisee was presumptuous and proud. He declared himself righteous before God and that is a dangerous thing to do. True goodness is very exacting and is not something we should presume we have. And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone (Lk18, 19).
So we pray like the publican. We do this every time we offer the Mass. We use more words and ritual, but we are in essence repeating the publican’s words: Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.
Every time we offer Mass we are renewing our share of the covenant; and bringing forth from God a new act of mercy on His part.
As often as this memorial sacrifice is offered, the work of our redemption is wrought. (Secret, 9th Sunday after Pentecost).
The mercy of God is current and immediate. We claim that mercy for the world. Lord, your people rebel against you non-stop, so we intercede nonstop, that you have mercy and win them over.
God has made a covenant with His people, and we are included in that. It is not, however, a covenant between equals.
God is superior to us in every possible point. What we have is only a sharing in what He has.
By the workings of grace we participate in God's life. We must never forget for a second that we are made by God, and kept in being by Him; and this so we can do His will, and live with Him forever in Heaven.
This is how things are set up. It will work fine if we keep our place, but if we break away at any point we will know great misery.
The covenant is in our favour because God gives far more to us than we give to Him.
Even what we do give is really His anyway (eg old sacrifices of animals or crops; and now His own Son!) Our giving does not add to what He already has, but He is pleased with our gratitude.
In a world which ever more ignores, insults, and disobeys God we go back to basics. My lifetime is as nothing in Thy sight (Ps 38,5)
Some will say that we do not have to abase ourselves before God. We can stand and look Him in the eye. No more need to kneel or bow before Him. They consider these things demeaning and not befitting our true status as children of God.
True, we are children of God, but children are supposed to honour their parents.
And all the more should we honour God as Father, and infinitely above us.
To show Him honour is not to contradict our status; it is an expression of that status. We are sinners brought in from the cold to dine at the Father’s table.
Even if we lived entirely good lives we would owe Him honour; but because we sin it becomes all the more necessary that we get back on the right footing with Him.
So our worship takes on a penitential flavour. We proclaim His greatness and our own nothingness.
Then, having restored the correct balance in the relationship, God can act in us and through us as He pleases (epistle).
The right attitude we seek is called Fear of the Lord. This is not fear, as in being afraid. Rather it is a healthy reverence; a sense of awe and wonder, which leads to joy; to a sense of relief and gratitude that we can enter God’s presence, despite being so unworthy.
God wants us to rejoice in His presence, to enjoy the good things He has given us; and to flourish in the light of His face.
Having entered in, God wants us to act like princes, His children, in showing the same bounty to others that we have received. Thus we want others to know what we have found.
We are all sinners and all called to greatness.