First reading Hosea 5:15-6:6

What I want is love, not sacrifice and holocausts

The Lord says this:
They will search for me in their misery.
‘Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces, but he will heal us;
he has struck us down, but he will bandage our wounds;
after a day or two he will bring us back to life,
on the third day he will raise us
and we shall live in his presence.
Let us set ourselves to know the Lord;
that he will come is as certain as the dawn
his judgement will rise like the light,
he will come to us as showers come,
like spring rains watering the earth.’
What am I to do with you, Ephraim?
What am I to do with you, Judah?
This love of yours is like a morning cloud,
like the dew that quickly disappears.
This is why I have torn them to pieces by the prophets,
why I slaughtered them with the words from my mouth,
since what I want is love, not sacrifice;
knowledge of God, not holocausts.

Responsorial Psalm 50(51):3-4,18-21

What I want is love, not sacrifice.
Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
  In your compassion blot out my offence.
O wash me more and more from my guilt
  and cleanse me from my sin.
What I want is love, not sacrifice.
For in sacrifice you take no delight,
  burnt offering from me you would refuse,
my sacrifice, a contrite spirit.
  A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.
What I want is love, not sacrifice.
In your goodness, show favour to Zion:
  rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
  burnt offerings wholly consumed.
What I want is love, not sacrifice.

Gospel Acclamation Ps 94:8

Glory and praise to you, O Christ!
Harden not your hearts today,
but listen to the voice of the Lord.
Glory and praise to you, O Christ!

Gospel Luke 18:9-14

The tax collector, not the Pharisee, went home justified.

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

We are loved because God is good

“…what I want is love, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not holocausts” (1st reading). God neither wants us to pay Him lip service nor offer  Him superficial worship. Instead, He longs for us to become people whose words, thoughts and actions are fueled by love. In today’s gospel, the Pharisee proudly listed down all he had done and even looked down on the tax collector. The Pharisee did many morally good acts, but  he failed to do all those things for love and with love. Unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector centred his prayer on God and recognised himself as a sinner in need of God’s mercy and love.
Let us allow our love for God to motivate us to do good and not feel superior to others just by what we do and achieve. Let us humbly come 
before God with all our flaws and receive His mercy and love once again, and learn to look at others with eyes of love, not judgement.
Question for reflection:
Do I identify myself with the Pharisee or the tax collector? Why?
Acknowledgment: Reflections are based on “Prayer for Living: The Word of God for Daily Prayer Year C” by Sr Sandra Seow FMVD.