Day 18: Saturday of 2nd week of Lent

Dominus Flevit Church on Mount of Olives

MERCIFUL AND KIND GOD

 

  1. Document: Holy Scripture Readings

1.1.  First Reading: The Book of the prophet Micah 7: 14-15,18-20

1.2.  Gospel Reading: The Gospel of St Luke 15: 1-3,11-32

1.3.  Simple Comment: The prophet Micah extols Yahweh when he recognizes His magnanimity in showing mercy to His people: “who is there like you, the God who removes guilt… who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency?” The parable of Jesus about the merciful Father and his prodigal son exemplifies the same point on why he has taken the side of the tax collectors and sinners whom he welcomes and with whom he dines. Sadly the Pharisees remain obstinate.

 

  1. Monument: Dominus Flevit on Mount of Olives

2.1.  Reaching the top of Mount of Olives after traveling the dusty roads of the Judean desert, one breathtakingly beholds the beauty of the holy city of Jerusalem. At sunset, it gleams like gold. The sight takes away the tiredness from a long walk that for Jesus could have even been for several days, specially if he started from his home region of Galilee.

2.2.  From the top of the Mount of Olives, there is a winding road going to the Valley of Kidron. Jesus passed this place as he prepared to enter the city of Jerusalem. However, ¼ of the way down, he sighed deeply and wept realizing that while God had often and incessantly offered salvation to His people, He also experienced one rejection after another. Much as the Lord wanted Jerusalem’s good stead, she refused and so Jesus foresaw her destruction which actually came to pass in the year 70 AD when the Romans kept no single stone unturned, destroyed the Temple and left it desolated.

2.3.  The place where Jesus heaved this great sigh of sadness is called Dominus Flevit, a Latin term meaning the Lord wept. Today a commemorative little chapel rises on this side of Mount of Olives overlooking the Temple Mount where the Al Aqsa Mosque stands and no longer the glorious Temple built by Herod the Great.

 

  1. Lenten Reflection

3.1.  Rembrandt van Rijn painted the beautiful scene of the return of the prodigal to the embrace of the merciful Father. The late Henri Nouwen made a profound meditation on this painting whose replica he found in a retreat house. John Paul II referred to this parable and to Rembrandt’s painting as he led the Catholic world in its immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee of the year 2000.

3.2.  We can speak endlessly about the beauty and the lesson of this parable. But that is not why Jesus narrated this parable. His main and only reason for doing so is that the Pharisees may leave their stern position of insisting in the pursuit of the perfect observance of the Law as the it-all of the Jewish faith. Instead he wanted to draw them to the delight of being embraced by the Father despite their imperfection. It is very possible that we shun that experience as well because we look first at our worthiness when the truth is we will never deserve his love. He is mercy, He is grace, He is Father!

 

  1. Contemporary Filipino Question: I’ve heard in one session about reconciliation that the Filipino is a very good farmer because kapag nagtanim, lalo na nang galit, matigas, mayabong, matagalan! The problem that ensues with unforgiveness is that it will also make it difficult for us Filipinos to believe, appreciate and accept the Father’s unconditional love. We are more prone to “earn” his mercy by doing acts of devotion and sacrifice like what flagellantes do, or Quiapo devotees walking the middle aisle on their knees, or Cursillistas praying with eagle-spread arms until they weigh like bags of cement. “Holocausts and burnt offerings you do not want; it is mercy you require.”