10Mar 10 March. Saturday of Week 2 of Lent

Micah 7:14ff. The prophet trusts the merciful shepherd to “have compassion upon us.”

Luke 15:1ff. The parable of the Prodigal Son, – a warning against self-righteousness.

Come back to God

Our Bible today speaks of an inheritance which a wayward son squandered by dissolute living. The inheritance has been lost, and yet an underlying trust in God convinces first Israel and then the prodigal son that the heavenly Father will return what was lost.

We have the concluding passage from Micah, a prophet who fiercely championed social justice and the rights of the dispossessed and underprivileged (see ch. 2). The people of Judah have had their downfall; they have been “trampled underfoot,” as Micah predicted, and driven off to a foreign land. This disaster was due to their sins, the prophet insisted, and not to Assyria’s (and later Babylon’s) vastly superior army. Now that the exile has ended and the poverty-stricken people have returned to Jerusalem, they are a reduced group, numerically, diplomatically and economically. Now he begs God to show wonderful signs “as you have sworn to our fathers from days of old.” Pondering God’s promises not only enabled them to survive through dreary, monotonous times, but 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, surviving on his memories, has the courage to seek out his father, who is prodigal with forgiveness. “Coming to his senses” meant that the goodness of the father, felt within the bones of the son, finally caught up with the young man and overcame his wayward resistance. A beautiful touch in the parable indicates that from a distance the father was drawing the boy home, before the son noticed him. It almost seems as if the father’s desire had been reaching across the miles to touch the heart of the son. The son’s remembrance is his surrender to a hidden call, beaming out love and forgiveness.

Meditating on the Scriptures lets us experience the heavenly Father’s presence at the core of our being. 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. When God’s deeply planted life in us makes all these promises 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 travelled 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.’