March 10, 2018
by Mary Lee Brock
Creighton University's Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program
click here for photo and information about the writer

Saturday of the Third Week of Lent
Lectionary: 242

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

Praying Lent

Lent Prayer for Today

The Third Week of Lent - 20 min. - Text Transcript

Lent for the Older Brother/Sister
of the Prodigal Son/Daughter

The Midpoint of Lent

Our identity is fundamental to understanding who we are and how we relate to the world.  Depending on the role I am fulfilling or who I am with, certain aspects of my identity present themselves.  I am a mother, a colleague, a sister, a friend, a neighbor, a conflict specialist, a book club member, a Catholic, a US citizen and so on.  My mother recently passed away so I am growing accustomed to being a daughter only in the cherished memories of my parents. 

We have identities that we present to the world and identities that create our understanding of ourselves.  Our identities can help us to connect to others and our identities can become a mask that prevent us from being our authentic selves.

When the world was getting to know Pope Francis he proclaimed his fundamental identity: “I am a Sinner.”  This statement had far reaching impact.  My first reaction to his declaration was confusion and disbelief.  How could such a holy man declare himself a sinner?  But as Pope Francis gently taught me about sin, he reminded us about the words of Jesus and his declaration became a model.

In today’s gospel from Luke, Jesus shares a parable that illustrates the profound understanding Pope Francis has about sin.  Jesus describes the Pharisee who smugly gives thanks for not being like others in his community, particularly the tax collector, who are greedy, dishonest and adulterous.  He believes his fasting twice a week and paying tithes make him a righteous person. At the same time the Pharisee was proclaiming his self-perceived righteousness, the tax collector was overwhelmed by his own identity as a sinner.  The tax collector could not raise his eyes to heaven and he prayed: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”

Pope Francis offers many lessons about sin.  He says that recognizing our own sin prepares us to make room in our hearts for Christ.  Those who have a heart full of themselves, of their own success receive nothing because they are already satiated by “presumed justice.”  The prayer of the tax collector is so simple, yet so powerful in the true hearted begging for mercy.  The identity of a sinner is important to embrace so we can become closer to God and to one another.

This Lent I challenge myself to explore my identity as a sinner.  I pray to do so with honesty and with vulnerability.  When I feel fear and shame, I pray to face my sin rather than try to answer it away or blame others for my shortcomings. When I find myself starting to feel that I am better than others, I pray for humility and for guidance to embrace the Gospel.  I look forward to making room in my heart for Christ.

 “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

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