“Three things are necessary for the salvation of man:
- to know what he ought to believe;
- to know what he ought to desire; and
- to know what he ought to do.”
–St. Thomas Aquinas
Ought to believe:
The LORD is a God of justice, who knows no favorites (Sir 35:12).
The prayer of the Pharisee vs. the prayer of the tax collector: addressed to those were convinced of their own righteousness.
The posture we take with God and with our neighbor matters.
The choices we make matter.
The moral choices we make affect our souls.
Ought to desire:
‘O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13)
Desire mercy, knowing that we don’t always make the right choices.
We are not alone: the Devil is always hunting us.
We are not perfect: the stain of Original Sin remains even after Baptism.
As our hearts go, so will our actions. This is not salvation through works; it is salvation because our lives change as our hearts change. Desiring mercy is at the heart of repentance, which is a new heart and a new mind. So, let us all desire mercy.
Ought to do:
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth. (Psalm 34:2)
Praise God for who He is and for His love for us even though we don’t always make the right choices.
Praising God and blessing God is what goes on in Heaven. They don’t play golf up there; they bless God. Read the Book of Revelation, where we get that glimpse of Heaven.
Here on earth, we ought to get busy with the Heavenly activity. Bless God and praise God for who He is and for how much he loves us. He is the God of all justice and all knowledge; let us praise him for that and trust him because of that. He is the God of all mercy; let us bless him for that and trust him because of that. He is the God of all Love; let us praise him for his loving gift of his Son to save us when we could not save ourselves.
Our God is a God of Justice
“The LORD confronts the evildoers…When the just cry out, the LORD hears them.” (Psalm 34)
Remember the definition of Justice is “giving to God and others their due – what they are supposed to get.” Evildoers are supposed to get punishment. People who do not want to accept God’s love will get what they are due: the absence of God’s loving presence.
God will not force himself upon us. He is a God of Justice.
Our God is a God of Mercy
“The LORD redeems the lives of his servants; no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34)
“The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds.” (Sir 35)
God hears us even if he seems remote. God answers us, even if it’s not the answer we expected.
At the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we are re-experiencing the Lord’s supreme act of mercy. On the Cross, the sacrifice we celebrate today at Mass, Jesus redeemed our lives. He took on himself that day all the sins we ever have or ever will commit. He paid the price for us. His blood was poured out like a libation – in the words of St. Paul today – which is a liquid offering. There is no greater act of Love and Mercy than the self-gift of Jesus on the Cross. We should desire to accept that gift with our whole hearts and to reflect it in our lives. Jesus was the highest good imaginable; we should desire to participate in that good however we can. Whenever we cry out to him, he hears our voice.
Our God is a God of Action
Our prayer will not only be heard, but God will respond. Our cries do not fall on deaf ears. He hears us. And he loves us with loving action.
His greatest act of love was sending his Son to live with us and then die for us on the Cross. But he never stops sending: the Holy Spirit is ever ready to respond and be active in our lives. If we want Him.
We will be judged by the God of Justice according to how we live our lives. Our lives will change when we ask for mercy. Our lives will change when we respond to God’s Love. Our prayers will be like the prayers of the tax collector when we realize how much God truly loves us.