“O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
When we have been shown mercy and love, it’s hard to imagine not extending that same mercy and love to others. Yet far too often there is a disconnect between what we have received and what we give in return.
The parable in today’s gospel aptly captures this disconnect. The pharisee somehow thinks his station in life provides him the right to judge others – “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity….” We all have a bit of pharisee in us. For some reason, we want to know that there is someone else worse off than we are, of whom we can say, “Well, at least I am not like that person.”
Maybe it has always been thus, but the dominance of social media amplifies these sweeping, hurtful judgments about others. It might be a petty comment about someone’s appearance or a more serious judgment of someone’s religion or skin color or political party or sexual identity. My parents taught all their children not to participate in gossip. It was not right. It was hurtful. And, they would add, do you want others gossiping about you?
Country singer, Keith Urban recorded a song, “But for the Grace of God.” The refrain might well be a helpful Lenten reflection:
And silently I say a little prayer, yes I do.
But for the grace of God, go I.
I must have been born a lucky guy.
Heaven only knows how I’ve been blessed
With the gift of your love.
And I look around and all I see
Is your happiness embracing me.
Oh, Lord, I’d be lost
But for the grace of God.