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Saturday, second week of Lent

March 6, 2010

Blessed Saturday!

God our Father, by Your gifts to us on earth
we already share in Your life.
In all we do, guide us to the light of Your kingdom.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(Opening Prayer for today’s Mass)

Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 (God is merciful)
Psalm 103: 1-12 “The Lord is kind and merciful”
+Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 (prodigal son)

Do you have any idea how very good your Father is?

The sons in today’s parable sure didn’t–not at first, at least. The younger one fell for the lure of “greener grass on the other side of the fence”, and didn’t even bat an eye as Dad did the unthinkable–passing on the inheritance as if he were already dead. This young man had no idea what he was leaving behind.

The older son wasn’t much better. Oh, he stayed, alright, but his heart wasn’t in it. “For years now I have slaved for you. I never disobeyed one of your orders, yet you never gave me so much as a kid goat to celebrate with my friends” (Luke 15:29).

“You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and you do not receive because you ask wrongly, with a view to squandering what you receive on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3). Either this son had not asked, or he had asked wrongly–had asked for the equivalent of a scorpion instead of an egg (Luke 11:11). His father was too good to feed his passions toward death. “The tug and lure of his passion tempt every man. Once passion has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin reaches maturity it begets death” (James 1:14-15).

By the time the story ended, this son still had not recognized his father’s goodness. Outside in the chill and gathering darkness, he nursed his anger at the injustice of it all, preferring his own misery over his father’s bounty.

Off in the far country, however, the younger son soon began to see a side of life he’d never noticed before. Once his money was gone, nobody cared. The best job he could find was feeding pigs (absolutely abhorrent to Jews–men had died to avoid eating pork because God had forbidden it–see II Maccabees 6:18-7:42, Leviticus 11:4-8), and even then he was starving. Suddenly he saw his father in a new light. Dad would never let someone starve! He just doesn’t treat people that way!

He was beginning to see his father’s goodness. He didn’t dare hope for the reception he received–the welcome, the restoration of sonship, the banquet–but he finally understood that he would be better off in his father’s house than anywhere else on earth.

We don’t have to follow the younger son’s example in order to learn his lesson. We can make the effort to get to know what we have before we decide to leave. That’s where Micah and the psalmist want help us–to paint for us a picture of our Father’s goodness. God has shepherded us generously, delighting in compassion and clemency. He has sworn to our fathers from days of old that He would be faithful to us and show us His steadfast love.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all His benefits.” -Psalm 103:2

If we regularly spend time reflecting on our Father’s goodness, turning our hearts to gratitude for His kindness and faithfulness, and opening our hearts to the gifts He wants so much to give us, then the grass of self-indulgence won’t look so green anymore. The smell of pigpen will become more distinct, wafting over the fence, while from the direction of home, the sound of music and dancing, the fragrance of roasting beef will have their own attraction. Even then, we will have only the tiniest taste of our Father’s goodness, which is infinitely beyond our comprehension.

Once we’ve caught the vision, then we, too, can share it. There are plenty of people pining over pigpens who have no idea how good it is at home. It will do their hearts good, and ours as well, to see with new eyes the green, green grass of home (acknowledgments to Claude Putman) before it’s too late.

Yours in the greenest pastures on earth,

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