22nd March. Saturday in the Second Week of Lent
22nd March. Saturday in the Second Week of Lent
1) Micah 7:14-15, 18-20
(The prophet trusts that the merciful shepherd will have compassion on the survivors.)
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
(The parable of the Prodigal Son,–a warning against self-righteousness.)
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.'”
Come back to God with all your heart
Today’s classic story speaks of a wayward son and the consequences of his dissolute living. But even when the family inheritance has been lost, a persistent underlying trust in God convinces first the survivors of Israel and then the prodigal son that the heavenly Father will restore all that was lost, if only the wanderer returns.
We have the positive theology of Micah, who fiercely championed social justice and the rights of the poor, but whose message was ignored. Ihe people of Judah consequently experienced downfall and have been “trampled underfoot,” as Micah predicted, this disaster was due to their sins and not to the enemy’s vastly superior army. But now that the exile has ended and the poverty-stricken people have returned to Jerusalem, Micah begs God to show mercy “as you have sworn to our fathers from days of old.” Memory has become the pledge and the hope of the future, keeping them in contact with a living compassionate God.
The prodigal son, too, relies on his memories and finds the courage to seek out his father, who is rich in forgiveness. “Coming to his senses” meant that the father’s goodness finally caught up with the young man and helps him overcame his guilt and shame. A beautiful touch in the parable suggests how from a distance the father was somehow drawing the boy home, as if the father’s mercy had been reaching across the miles to touch the heart of the son. The son’s remembrance is of this unconditional love is what drew him back to his proper place.
This is a strong call to all of us to come back to the Father, with repentance and purpose of amendment, this Lent. For many, this purpose will find expression and will be strengthened, by a sincere and thoughtful confession of sins in the often-neglected Sacrament of Penance. At the least, it invites us to consciously take part in the penitential rite at the start of each Eucharistic celebration, over the coming weeks.