Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
In the prologue to his epic poem “Paradise Lost” John Milton explains the purpose of his ambitious work. Milton writes that he wants to “justify the ways of God to men.” In the reading from the prophet Micah today, we see God calling for such a judgment. Theoretically justification is unnecessary. Since God is the Creator and Sustainer of all, humans are to serve Him not to question Him. But God enters into a public trial with Israel because He desires friendship with His people so that they might take delight in His goodness.
Micah, speaking on God’s behalf, mentions a few of the marvelous deeds God has accomplished on behalf of Israel. He brought them out of slavery and taught them to be a great nation through leaders like Moses. For these benefits God does not ask the tribute which the people are willing to pay – animal sacrifices, oil stocks, or (how could they ever imagine this?) holocausts of their own children. No, God requires only virtue so that they might live in gratitude to Him and in peace with one another. He wants Israel to be just, good, and humble.
In the supreme act of loving kindness God shows the whole world exactly what He means by the virtues Micah outlines. He sends His own son, whom we know as Jesus Christ, to exemplify justice, goodness, and humility. Jesus demonstrates that justice requires particular attention to the poor. He epitomizes goodness by dying on behalf of sinners. And he personifies humility first by dispossessing himself of divine attributes in becoming human and then by suffering the most ignominious death of all – crucifixion. Even though such justification is not necessary, in Jesus God shows Himself to be all just.