walk humbly with your God


This reading from the prophet Micah today (6:1-4, 6-8) has quite a few resonances in it that point in other directions. First of all, there is a phrase here that is used in the Reproaches that are traditionally sung on Good Friday––O my people, what have I done to you, or how have I offended you?, it begins, right from this text, but then it adds something to the Michan text: I scourged Egypt for your sake with its firstborn sons / and you scourged me and handed me over.[1] Of course at first glance we seem to be getting the image of an angry God here, but if we imagine these words on the lips of Jesus being led to the cross––defenseless, bound, scourged, bloody, abandoned––we get a whole different feeling around this. Jesus as the face of God who has allowed himself to be rejected, abandoned, God’s own kenosis, the Word emptying itself of godliness, and suddenly this becomes more the plea of a jilted lover than an angry parent.

This is echoed in our respsign of jonahonsorial psalm today (Ps. 50), an often overlooked important turning point in the Hebrew mind, echoed also in the prophet Isaiah often, but also in Psalms 51 and 116 (vs. 17, To you will I offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving…), a theme that had great resonance in Jesus’ own teaching. God says, “I don’t need your sacrifices, nor do I rebuke you because of them. That’s not what this is about! The sacrifice I want is your praise,” or in some translation, “the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” (Again, the voice of the jilted lover or an abandoned friend more than the angry God.)

That of course plays into what we hear in the gospel today (Mt 12:38-42). What is the sign of Jonah? The Son of Man spending three days in the heart of the earth. Again, God’s own kenosis, and the answer lies not in our defending ourselves (just as God has no ego to defend) but in emptying ourselves to be filled with…well, grace, I suppose. This is the wisdom greater even than Solomon’s wisdom: The Jews demand signs, Paul says in 1 Corinthians, and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. And we are asked to believe that this foolishness––God’s foolishness––is wiser than human wisdom, and this kind of weakness––God’s own weakness!––is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor (1:22-25).

Back to the last lines of the responsorial psalm, besides the sacrifice of praise, the only other thing the Divine One wants of us is to go the right way. We might quite also here Hosea 6, as Jesus himself does twice: ‘It is love that I desire not sacrifice; the knowledge of God rather than holocausts.’ And so that often quoted last line of this pericope of Micah: What does the Lord require? It’s very simple, as a teacher of mine used to say, but it’s not easy. Just this:

Do justice.

Love kindness.

And walk humbly with your God.

[1] Friday, Passion of the Lord, Reproaches II.

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