Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mercy is falling like rain

Our Scriptures today, from Micah, Psalm 103 and Luke's story of the Prodigal Son give us a clear image of the mercy of God.

What does that mercy look like? Well, look at what Micah has to say, "Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, And will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins."

God's greatest desire is to cast our sins into the depth of the sea. The psalm response takes this up as we prayed "The Lord is kind and merciful."

But, as beautiful as these notions of mercy and forgiveness are, in these formats they are just theological notions. What does this mercy look like?

Jesus gives us the answer in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, sometimes referred to as the Parable of the Forgiving Father. In this unique and profound parable, Jesus shows us very practically what the mercy and forgiveness of God looks like.

We know the story, the son basically sins in every way possible. He is ungrateful and greedy, he takes his inheritance and squanders it on further sin doing everything possible to alienate himself from God and from his family.

He comes to his senses, recognizes his sin, and returns to his father guilty and full of penitence. And, what is the father's reaction? Great joy and celebration.

I often like to ask people when reflecting on this passage, "What did the father have to say about the son's sins?" Of course, the father said nothing, he was simply overjoyed at the return of his son. And so he gives him a fine robe and a festive meal and welcomes him back fully into his family.

And this is how God will treat us. Sometimes we have the cycle of guilt and forgiveness reversed. We come to confession, confess our sins, but still leave feeling guilty for what we've done. This in effect blinds us from receiving the full freedom that God offers us in the Sacrament.

Reconciliation shouldn't lead us to guilt. Rather guilt leads us to reconciliation. Reconciliation leads us to forgiveness and mercy and joy. Why? Because God has cast our sins into the depths of the sea.

The story of the Prodigal Son is our story. Only God has prepared for us a garment far more beautiful the the one the father gave this son. He gives us the robe of our baptismal innocence. And God prepares for us a meal far more festive and wonderful than the fatted calf. He gives us the very Body and Blood of His Son for our feast.

A feast that not only reconciles us to Him and to His family, but welcomes us into the very joy of eternity.

God's mercy is falling on us like rain!

First Reading:
Mic 7:14-15, 18-20
Ps 103:1-4, 9-12
Lk 15:1-3, 11-32

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