Today in some places Our Lady is honoured as the "refuge of sinners". And it so happens that today's gospel (10th Sunday after Pentecost) presents us with the perfect attitude of those who wish to find refuge in her Immaculate Heart.
The pharisee of our gospel is the epitome of the person who thinks he is "OK". He does all the right things at the right times, he fulfils all his duties as he should. Apparently he's a "good guy". But there is one problem, or rather there are two problems. First, he doesn't need anybody's help, not even God's; he doesn't ask for anything, for he has it all right. Second, he scorns others, and not just any others, but all others: "I am not like the rest of men". Since he needs no help, and doesn't ask for it, he won't get it, he will not find a refuge and he will be lost.
The publican on the other hand does not dare approach to the altar; he does not lift up his eyes; he has no speech to make to God; he knows God does not need him. All he can do is strike his breast and ask God's mercy for his sins. He is the perfect example of the soul who knows it's not "OK", and who needs help: he will find a refuge.
Today's collect tells us that the omnipotence of God is manifested most perfectly when He shows mercy. Why is that? Because His forgiveness can manifest itself only upon those souls who humbly acknowledge their need for it, and who in the end profess that God is all. Since God is almighty and is in need of no one, there is no attitude He finds more repugnant than that of the soul who is "OK", whereas there is no attitude He finds more attractive than that of the soul who confesses its absolute need for God's grace. It is as if He cannot resist showing mercy to the humble soul.
Mary, our sweet Mother, is given to us to be our refuge, but we must first acknowledge our sins, we must come to her as a child in trouble who knows it needs its mother. If we do, we will find in her Immaculate Heart the assured refuge from our sins, from our past, from ourselves. We will find peace, the peace that only God can give, and that is the fruit of the exercise of His omnipotence through the forgiveness of our sins. "Whoever humbles himself shall be exalted". And who is more humble than the childlike soul who runs to the Immaculate Mother, begging her to open her arms and lead her to God?