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WHAT GOD ASKS OF US ...

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Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Micah 6:1-4, 6-8 & Mt. 12:38-42

The court scene in today's reading is of cosmic dimensions. All of Nature is called upon to be a witness in this trial of the people, in which God is both prosecutor and judge. Despite all that God has done for them, the people have been unfaithful, thinking that external religious rites could substitute for a life of true devotion. The people have no case. They deserved to be condemned.

But God is an unusual judge. He is not intent upon condemning. He passes no sentence because He prefers repentance to punishment. He dismisses the case with an admonition which is so gentle that there is scarcely any sting to it. "What is good has been explained to you, man; this is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.”

This admonition is the constant message of the prophets. What God wants from us is to love Him - out of love and not of duty. To walk humbly with God means to live in union with God and to serve Him in love.

Despite Jesus’ many previous miracles the Pharisees and Scribes in today's Gospel ask for another sign. But Jesus cites the example of the prophet Jonah and the Queen of Sheba in reply. Jonah was sent by God to warn the people of Nineveh of its imminent destruction but was cast overboard in a great storm and swallowed by a large fish, in the stomach of which he remained for three days and nights. When he preached to the Ninevites they repented of their sin and God did not inflict on them the disaster He had threatened. Jesus speaks of Jonah because his experience foreshadows His death and rising from the tomb on the third day. The story of Jonah should have been an incentive to the Scribes and Pharisees to repent but it fell on deaf ears.

The Queen of Sheba had heard about the wisdom of Solomon and came to see for herself whether it was all true. What she saw caused her to praise God for the favour He had shown Solomon. The Pharisees and the Scribes stood before Jesus, in whom the fullness of the deity dwells bodily, the One far greater than Jonah and Solomon, and yet they refused to repent and believe in Him.

Impenitence is an outward sign of being hard of heart and this Gospel encourages us to ponder again the key theme of repentance. In order to repent we first need to open our hearts to God's great love and mercy that was revealed so clearly in His Son. As we ponder the mystery of the Incarnation and let the Holy Spirit soften our hearts, then the more we become aware of our offences against God and our need to repent, the more we will turn our hearts to Him.

Lord Jesus, let us leave behind our pride, our attachment to riches and the other transient things of this world - in short everything that keeps us from repenting of our sins and accepting God's love into our lives.

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