“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)
Sometimes we get so concerned with being “right” in our views about God and faith and church that we put ourselves on a religious pedestal of sorts, not recognizing that such self-interest is itself the heart of our sin. When we remember that Jesus’ work on the cross was as much for the lowly as the great, as much for the unorthodox as for the orthodox, and as much for our enemies as for ourselves, we cannot help but fall to our knees like the tax collector and simply beg for God’s mercy.
As we participate in our 5th day of fasting together this Lent, the cross grows ever nearer. God’s infinite mercy is in plain view. We approach humbly so that we may have the faith to see the empty grave on the other side and the risen Christ in our midst.
Let our fast not be something we do to gain attention for ourselves or something we conduct as a religious ritual, but as a stark reminder of the unfailing mercy and love of Jesus.
“Lord Jesus, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Let this prayer be on our breath every moment in the weeks to come.