02Mar 2 March. Saturday in the Second Week of Lent

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Micah 7:14ff. Trust that God the merciful shepherd will have compassion on his people.

Lk 15:1ff. The parable of the Prodigal Son: a profoundly compassionate God.

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.'”

On not giving up hope

Today’s word speaks of an inheritance squandered by foolish living. But even if we go astray, our trust in God’s mercy convinces us that all is not lost.

Micah is known as a champion of social justice and defender of the dispossessed (see ch 2). Now the people of Judah have been driven off to a foreign land. This disaster came on account of their sins, insists the prophet, and was not just due to the enemy’s superior force. Now their exile has ended and the people have returned to Jerusalem, but they are poverty-stricken and reduced in every way. The author begs God: “show us wonderful signs, as you have sworn to our fathers from days of old.” Their faith-memory is a pledge of hope for a better future. It assures them of ongoing contact with their living, compassionate God.

The prodigal son, too, survives on the memory of his father’s kindness and so found the courage to humbly return home seeking forgiveness.  He came to his senses because the father’s goodness finally overcame the the young man’s waywardness. A beautiful touch in the story is that the father was beckoning the boy home from a distance, before ever the son noticed him. The son’s remembrance might even be like a passive surrender to a hidden stimulant, calling out for love and celebration.

These Scriptures invite us to experience our heavenly Father’s merciful presence at the core of our existence. The Bible revives and invigorates our memory of God, inherited from our ancestors and from Jesus. In turn, our greatest gift to the next generation would be belief in God’s goodness as basic to our existence. This will enable them to write a new page in their lives, returning to the Father like the prodigal son, assured of an unconditional welcome.

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