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Saturday, March 14, 2020

Homily for 2020-03-14 Saturday 2nd Week of Lent

Micah 7:14-15, 18-20; Psalm 103; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Most of us are quite familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son. It is often, used to speak of the mercy of the father toward his son who squandered his money and eventually was received and restored when he comes back to his father’s house. In the diary of St Faustina, Jesus told her that the greater the sinner, the greater is his right to mercy. This was actually mentioned twice in the diary. So what is the problem with God’s mercy? Nothing. It is God’s gift for our salvation and we accept this with praise and thanksgiving.
The problem is not in God’s mercy. The problem is how it is interpreted and explained. Many people think since God is merciful, I can do whatever I want, I can be whatever I want, and I will still go to heaven. Or many think since God is merciful, I will not go to hell. This misunderstanding of God’s mercy has actually deprived people of experiencing the mercy of God.
God’s mercy is for all, but there has to be a response to this gift. Salvation is a gift from God and we receive it when we draw close to God. We see this in the first reading when Micah asked God to Shepherd his people with his staff to lead his sheep and feed them in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old. But the sheep cannot be fed in peace and abundance if they will not go where the Shepherd lead. The last verse of the Responsorial Psalm tells us: for as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him. God’s love is beyond measure to those who fear him. If I do not fear the Lord, then I will not be aware of his love, nor will I ask for his mercy. And when I do not ask, I will not receive.
What does the fear of the Lord mean? Sirach 2 describes the fear of the Lord. It is summed up in two words: trust God. We experience God’s mercy when we trust him. The son who squandered his father’s money trusted his father’s mercy when he came to his senses and decided to go back. When he returned, his father did more than what the son asked. Instead of taking him as a slave, the father restored him back to his original state. The father did not care the son came back not in repentance of his sin, but because he wanted a better life than he had. There was no anger, nor scolding, just the father running towards the returning son, putting his arms around him and kissing him. BUT the son had to return to experience the mercy and forgiveness of his father. Contrast this to the elder brother. He was obedient to the father. But his relationship was not of trust. He sees himself as his father’s slave when he said For all these years, I have been working like a slave for you. I have never disobeyed your command: yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. He obeyed because he was afraid. The elder son did not even have the courage to ask for a young goat. The younger son saw himself as a slave, but was restored to sonship. While the elder son saw himself as a son, in reality was a slave. God is Lord of all and he wants to be our Father.
So how is God’s mercy related to the situation we have today. How can we say God is merciful when many people suffer and die because of the corona virus? While God is not the source of suffering, he uses our suffering for his glory. All things work together for the good of the who love God. God protects us from harm. We trust he will do what is best for us. This corona virus incident is a call to deeper trust in the Lord.
As we celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus, let us ask him in confidence to stretch out his hand and stop the plague. We pray that as he transforms the bread and wine to his Body and Blood during the consecration, as we stand mystically before his cross, that he will heal those infected and affected by this situation, because it is by his wounds that we are healed.
The Book of Lamentations, as the title suggests, is full of laments. But almost at the centre of the book in 3:22-23, it says The mercies of the Lord are not consumed, because his steadfast love never fails. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.Around us is sickness, destruction, death, fear, suffering, uncertainties, maybe even anger. These are cause for lamentations. Yet, when we call on the Lord, when we stand boldly before the throne of grace, we are confident we will receive mercy and grace in time of need. Jesus pierces the destruction in our world today, just as he pierced through the destruction of sin when he became man. There is hope because he rose from the dead and those who trust him will see also rise from death and darkness. Do not be afraid. God’s mercies will not end. His steadfast love never fails. They are new every morning and those who fear the Lord will see the Sun of Righteousness rise with healing in its wings. We dare to stand confidently and trust the name of the Lord, because he is merciful and faithful. His love has no end.

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