WHAT THE LORD REQUIRES

Monday, 16th Week in Ordinary Time            

            We all have had the experience of getting lost. We made a wrong turn or followed an incorrect direction – driving around unsure of where we are. When we are lost, the basic thing to do is to look for a sign pointing us to the way back or to our destination.

            Micah, in today’s first reading, is sent to the people of Israel to be that sort of sign – to tell them that they are lost and to point the way. He is called to speak God’s Word to the people of Israel at a time when they are lost morally.

            Somehow, the people admit their guilt and ask, in Micah’s drama, whether they can make reparation for their infidelity through crawling or groveling for hours and days, through tons of sacrifices, thousands of animal sacrifices, gallons of expensive oil poured on the altar, or even the sacrifice of their first born. (Joseph Krempa) The Lord answers that what he wants is that they do the right thing, love goodness, and walk in humility before him. Nothing can substitute for conversion of life.

            Sad to say, sometimes, we look for ‘substitutes’ to doing the right, as the Lord asks us to do. Rather than forgiving those who sin against us, rather than taking the first step in reconciliation, rather than avoiding occasions of sin and being a bad influence, rather than terminating an immoral relationship or illicit affair, rather than taking concrete steps to manage an addiction or attachment, rather than putting our moral house in order… rather than doing these things, we hunt for special prayers that will work like magic, we make expensive and lengthy pilgrimages, we do dramatic penances, we donate large amount of money… when God only asks that we hear his Word and keep it. Conversion of life is the most difficult thing to do, yet that is what pleases the Lord.

            Jesus, in today’s gospel, refers to “the sign of Jonah,” which is no other than the call to repentance and conversion. In today’s first reading, conversion is expressed in this way: “What the Lord requires of you: Only do the right thing and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” We get three very important Hebrew words from this passage: mishpat, hesed, and hasnea. Mishpat: Do justice. Hesed: Love goodness Hasnea: Walk humbly with your God. We are called to live these three things with our whole being.

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