Saturday, March 17, 2007

Saturday in the 3rd Week of Lent
The Value of Misery

Readings: Hosea 6:1-6; Psalm 51:3-4, 18-19, 20-21ab; Luke 18:9-14

They will search for me in their misery…

We all seek comfort and contentment. And we live in a go-getting culture that values self-confidence and self-esteem. These are good things, of course. But it’s possible to have too much of a good thing, isn’t it? It’s possible to be so focused on these things, so full of our own needs and our own considerable capacities to fulfill them that we forget the One True Source of Life.

Isn’t this what sets the Pharisee and the tax collector apart? The former is as self-assured as the latter is shy. Yet, ironically, it is the latter who went home again at rights with God. His difficult situation has somehow led him to realize his own need for God. He experiences on a daily basis his own helplessness, his own failure to do what is required by the Law, his own inability to make himself worthy of approaching his God. And it is out of this sense of his own weakness, his own neediness and unworthiness that he continues to reach out to God. In his misery, he searches for God, and receives a hearing.

This is a striking image of what our Lenten project is about. Whatever people may think or say, Lent is not really about doing difficult things so that we can somehow make ourselves worthy of God, or prove our love for God. Instead, it’s really about first allowing ourselves to be disillusioned. It is about letting go of our false sense of self-confidence, our false image of who we are and what we can accomplish before God. It’s about allowing God to convict us of our misery, our absolute need for God’s mercy. And out of that realization, to cry out to the God who does not spurn a humbled, contrite heart.

Where might we find a place for misery in our ongoing walk with God?

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