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Lenten Weekday
Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13A, 17B-28A
Psalm 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21
Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
Both Micah and the Psalmist are awed by the compassionate forgiveness of God in the
face of a recalcitrant community. In Luke's account, Jesus unfolds the parable of the
Prodigal Son which sweeps the themes of both of the other readings into a passionate
exposition of God's merciful love.
The Parable of the Prodigal Son, along with the Parable of the Good Samaritan, are
probably the most cherished of that genre because they speak at such a dramatic and
personal level of the care God has for His creation--particularly for the people whom
He wants to reflect His goodness. Both parables are also spoken as a warning to those,
like the Pharisees, who think their social position gives them an advantage in God's fa-
vor. In these lessons, God, as the bringer of healing, never employs prejudice or judg-
ment in His encounters with the wounded. He brings only mercy and rejuvenation--
and He brings them in staggering abundance.
Whenever I hear these tales, I'm struck by how far my initial impulses stand
in opposition to those exercised by healers of these parables. I want to think
I would act like the gracious father, but I know I would probably more resem-
ble a synthesis of the unappealing characteristics of the two sons--profligate
and envious. And I know I have found plenty of "valid" excuses not to cross
the street to comfort and restore a victim.
These stories reach into the darkest parts of our consciousness to tweak and
kindly prod us again and again. Unlike useless bathing in some guilty gloom,
I feel they have tendency to rally the best in us to resume the walk--to find
some footing and begin our personal and collective journeys anew. It's said
that the "road is straight and narrow." I don't know that road very well.
Mine has a lot of gains and losses in elevation, spends too much time in
switchbacks, tunnels and underbrush, but it has my name on it. Thankfully,
the Spirit has inspired people like Micah, David, and Luke to give us the lit-
erature that inspires us to snap out of any morass, take a good look at our
moral compass, and get going forward. The "forward" here is always in the
direction of the footsteps of Jesus--so tender in the telling and so challeng-
ing in the practice. Most of the challenge is from the weight of our own
weaknesses and failures, but as the Psalmist so merrily sings, "As far as the
east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us." One of