Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday word, 23 Feb 2008

Saturday, Second Week of Lent (23 Feb 2008) Mi 7.14-15,18-20; Ps103; Lk 15.1-3,11-32
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
God, Kentucky and Lent

The psalms in particular praise God for God’s compassion and fidelity. Prophet Micah was no different. The word he chose to express God’s compassion we can better understand if we consider the verb from which it comes--Hebrew is a verbal language, active and not abstract.

Micah praised God, who loved deeply, who showed tender affection. Compassion is the fruit of loving deeply and showing tender affection. Luke’s gospel communicated God’s compassion with a physical word we can only translate by a phrase: to be moved to one’s bowels--which ancients considered the seat of love, mercy and pity.We know that depth of feeling. Folks from Kentucky enshrined concern and its upset in a phrase of warning. A neighbor from Kentucky told my mother, when she was distressed, “Now, now: don’t get your bowels in a stir.”

If we let go of our precise anatomical knowledge, we can appreciate God’s deep love as Israel did, and how the prophets freely used womb-imagery for God’s deep love for humans.

The way culture shaped Prophet Micah’s call to faith helps us appreciate better the emotional qualities, which resonate in Jesus’ famous parable of the lost and found son. The prodigal, extravagant, love of the father for the younger son can soothe us if we identify with that son. On the other hand, that same love, by which Jesus tried to evoke in his listeners God’s love, touches something else in us, no less deep. If we identify with the elder son, then divine love lavished on others may well evoke resentment, even fury. Those emotions blind us to what we always have: God’s prodigal love.

Resentment, which the Pharisees seemed to have in spades, prevented them from welcoming Jesus’ desire to welcome them. Resentment is insidious. It is so furtive that we are unaware of its dehumanizing effects on us. Lent seeks to reshape us as more humane than we can become by lenten practices alone. Lent welcomes us to let go of whatever keeps us from entering the festive banquet Jesus spreads before us in order to become more like God.
Wiki-image Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son is in the public domain.

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