Saturday in the Second Week of Lent
Micah 7:14ff. The prophet trusts that God, as a merciful shepherd, will again have compassion on his lowly and needy people.
Luke 15:1ff. The parable of the Prodigal Son portrays a profoundly compassionate God, and includes a sharp warning against self-righteousness.
Our Inheritance: Remembering God
In these passages the Bible speaks of an inheritance, promised on earth “to our fathers from days of old,” yet “squandered … on dissolute living.” In each case the inheritance has been lost, and yet an underlying continuous trust in God convinces Israel and the prodigal son that the heavenly Father will return what was lost.
The Micah passage concludes the book of this prophet, known for his championing of social justice and the rights of the dispossessed and underprivileged (see ch 2). It seems that the verses (7:11-20) were a later addition, from some anonymous, inspired source, editing this book of the prophet in the post-exilic age.
The people of Judah have seen “her downfall . . . trampled underfoot,” as predicted in 7:10; she has been driven off to a foreign land. This disaster was due to the people’s sins, insisted the prophet, and must not be explained simplistically by Assyria’s and later Babylon’s vastly superior army. Even now that the exile has ended and the poverty-stricken people have returned to Jerusalem, they are insignificant – numerically, diplomatically and economically.
The inspired author of these lines begs God to “show us wonderful signs … as you have sworn to our fathers from days of old” (v 15, 20). This inheritor of Micah’s prophetic mantle weaves earlier biblical passages into his words; we hear echoes of Jer 10:6; Ps 105:6; Is 41:8; 63:16. Pondering these biblical passages not only enabled this person to survive through some dreary, monotonous, small times, but also to continue dreaming of wonderful things. Memory has become the pledge and the hope of the future. It provides the substance of faith and contact with a living compassionate God.
The prodigal son, too, survived on his memories and so was humbly courageous to seek out his father, prodigal with forgiveness. “Coming to his senses at last” meant that the goodness of the father, planted within the bones and blood of the son, finally caught up with the young man and overcame the wayward’s resistance. A beautiful touch in Jesus’ parable indicates that from a distance the father was beckoning the boy home, before the son ever noticed him. It almost seems as if the father’s desire had been reaching across miles and mountains to touch the faith of the son. The son’s remembrance might even be like a passive surrender to a hidden stimulant, calling out for love and celebration.
Meditating upon the Holy Scriptures enables us to experience the heavenly Father’s presence at the core of our existence. The Bible revives memories and hopes. It brings new life to our best self, planted in us by God. It invigorates the memories about God, inherited from our ancestors – the faithfulness to Jacob, the grace to Abraham. Jacob and Abraham symbolize all the saintly men and women before us. The “wonderful signs” become miracles now!
The most joyful miracle may be our newly found hope. Our greatest gift to future generations will be this remembrance of God’s total goodness at the base of our existence. From our heavenly home we can beckon sons and daughters home, as we wait for them. We will enable them to write a new addition to our lives, as lines were once added to Micah’s prophecy. They will enable us to celebrate like the father upon the return of the prodigal son. When God’s deeply planted life in us makes all these claims come true, the family of God’s children will be complete.
First Reading: Micah 7:14-15, 18-20
Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock that belongs to you, which lives alone in a forest in the midst of a garden land; let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old. As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, show us marvellous things.
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of your possession? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in showing clemency. He will again have compassion upon us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and unswerving loyalty to Abraham, as you have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old.
Gospel: Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “”There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ‘ So he set off and went o his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe – the best one – and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'”