Sunday, June 16, 2013

Devotion and Gratitude

Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!

“If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner,” so said Simon the Pharisee to himself. And so he is right…the Lord knew who and what kind of woman this was who washed his feet with ointment. After all, Jesus is more than a prophet. He is God who alone is able to read the human heart. He is so much unlike us who are only able to judge by appearance. He is able to “see in secret”. Nothing can be hidden from him. He alone understands the complexity of the human heart. Such is what the Lord capable of doing that he did not only read the heart of the weeping woman. He read the heart of the Pharisee himself. Thus, the Lord gave Simon the lesson of the debtors who were both forgiven by the creditor in order to the drive the point that the one who is forgiven of greater sins is the one who is able to love more. The devotion which the woman showed the Lord was the sign that she was indeed a sinful woman – a woman who was forgiven much that is why she is now able to love much.

Oftentimes, our acts of devotion and piety are judged as hypocritical because they give people the impression that we love to make a public display for our righteousness. Apparently, such pious acts are frowned upon as practices of people with a holier-than-thou attitude. Thus, in the fear of being judged as such, we become very calculating in the expression of our devotion. We hesitate to show piety for fear of being labeled as “banal na aso, santong kabayo.” But anyone who makes an effort to look into our acts of devotion would realize that such are not displays of self-proclaimed righteousness. Rather, these acts of devotion are actually expressions of love and gratitude on account of the mercy which the Lord has shown us sinners. Take a typical novena, for example. Let us look at the popular novena to the Sacred Heart, and what do you read? You would read words like: “I admit that I am unworthy of your favors, but this is not a reason for me to be discouraged. You are the God of mercy, and you will not refuse a contrite heart. Cast upon me a look of mercy…and your kind heart will find in my miseries and weaknesses a reason for granting my prayer.” Never have I encountered a devotional act that arrogantly demands of the Lord what is asked for on account of the devotion undertaken. Never have I heard any prayer that said: Lord, I am doing this for you and so you better give me what I want…or else! The humble petition in spite of our lack of worthy is the stuff that devotions are made of. We dare approach the Lord not because we think we are worthy (we know we never are) but because we know that He is merciful: “Sacred Heart of Jesus, I know that there is but one thing impossible to you: to be without pity for those who are suffering or in distress…” It is the confidence in the tender mercy of the Lord that encourages us to keep on returning to him. We approach him even in spite of our sinful selves. The Lord knows this. We cannot hide anything from him. He knows who we are and because of what he knows, he allows us to draw near to him to touch him. He knows that we need him. He knows that we need his mercy very badly.   

Thus, it is not those who show devotion who are hypocrites but the worldly who accuse them project their hypocrisy to pious people. I say that they project their hypocrisy on the devout because they see themselves as having no need of the Lord’s mercy: I can do it on my own…I don’t need Divine help, thank you very much. This self-reliance is the new hypocrisy. It is the new pride. It is the new idolatry for it dares to extol the self in the place of God. It dares to substitute the reliance on Divine Mercy with self-reliance. It is lacking in authentic love for it dares not love anyone else but the self. But as for ourselves, let us continue to show devotion and piety, even in spite of what we are accused of. Let us make the words of the Psalmist our own: “For in sacrifice you take no delight, burnt offering from me you would refuse, my sacrifice, a contrite spirit. A humbled contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn.”

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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