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? - Micah 7:18-19a
The Gospel for today is the well-known story of two brothers, one who stays home and does what he is supposed to do, and the other who runs wild and ultimately returns seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. I can easily spend time praying about the times when I have turned from God or run searching for fulfillment in all the wrong places. I can just as easily spend time reflecting on the times when I have been the one to stay near and cast judgment on those whose sins seem far worse than my own. The Father who loves so dramatically proves to be a more difficult character with whom to identify.
The Father in the Gospel and the God in the Old Testament reading both demonstrate a kind of radical forgiveness and generosity of love. This God does not just overlook my shortcomings; He “delights” in being merciful and “treading underfoot our guilt.” I imagine God stomping out the self-doubt and scrupulosity that make me less compassionate towards myself, and by consequence less forgiving of others.
In his landmark memoir, The Return of the Prodigal Son, Henri Nouwen says that, “The God whom Jesus announces and in whose name he acts is the God of compassion, the God who offers himself as example and model for all human behavior. But there is more. Becoming like the heavenly Father is not just one important aspect of Jesus’ teaching, it is the very heart of his message.” Today’s readings challenge me to accept myself as God’s beloved and radically affects how I am called to act towards others.
Lord, are you inviting me today to be more compassionate and gentle with myself? Are you also inviting me to become even more like the Father?
Reflected by Jen Coito