“How you think about Heaven affects everything in life - how you prioritize love, how willing you are to sacrifice for the long term, how you view suffering, what you fear or don’t fear.” ~ John Burke/Imagine Heaven
“Who is there like you?” asks the Prophet Micah in today’s 1st Reading (Micah 7:14-15, 18-20) as he marvels at the God who “removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance.” He who “does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency.” In the opening stages of this passage, Micah refers to the people of Israel as the flock of his inheritance, an apt metaphor as he beseeches the Lord to shepherd his people.
Throughout Scripture, God is often portrayed as the faithful Shepherd of His people. Here we find Micah in a very candid moment, for he knows full well that the Israelites, God's precious people, have persistently rebelled and been largely disobedient to the Commandments. This has been and will be a recurring theme in the passages chosen for this the Lenten Season. We will for instance proclaim Azariah’s prayerful plea this Tuesday at Daily Mass by way of Daniel 3:25, 34-43. Micah's plea is that God will restore them and provide for them. God would of course go on to do just that in later years.
In today’s Gospel (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32), the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we revisit a passage which points to the very essence of what Christianity is; God is searching us out. It’s what makes Christianity unique to all other religions. When the father sees his waywardly dissolute son off in the distance, Scripture tells us that he “runs to him.” That’s significant for a number of reasons, the first of which is bolstered by a simple fact of those times: Jewish men didn’t run. It was viewed as being indignant and well beneath them given their lofty status in the culture. God runs to us in similar fashion, not persisting in anger as the Prophet Micah proclaimed today. Swift to forgive, quick to “cast into the depths of the sea all our sins,” (Micah 7:19) but eager to transform us too.
Yes, the Prophet Micah’s prayer in today’s 1st Reading was indeed profoundly answered. It was the Lord Jesus who was sent in response to his plea. Jesus was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel two thousand years ago. He came not only to forgive them of their transgressions, but to transform all people of good will. To restore them into fellowship with Himself. Many rejected Him at His first coming. Many still do today.
But like the father in today’s tale of the prodigal son, he will never stop running to those who have walked away from Him. In fact it is through the conversion of those who were lost, those who were enslaved to sin, those who were dead in the truest sense of the word, that the Father experiences the greatest joy (Luke 15:7).
As we continue our Lenten journey, may we be ever emboldened by the promise of this great inheritance while seeking the transformation needed to insure that no one and nothing will ever deceive us into losing it. For in the words of noted author Robert Rogers, “I believe the worst regret in life is to miss the ultimate goal - our eternal home - Heaven. If we blow it on this single issue, nothing else matters.”