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Answer Me

Tell me, my people, what I have done, that thou shouldst be a-weary of me? Answer me. Was it ill done, to rescue thee from Egypt, set thee free from a slave's prison, send Moses and Aaron and Mary to guide thee on thy way? Canst thou doubt, then, the faithfulness of the Lord's friendship? (Micah 6, 3-5)

Man's Response, Faithless and Cruel

Today's First Reading from the prophet Micah contains the source of the first of the Improperia, the Great Reproaches that are sung during the adoration of the Cross on Good Friday. The liturgy places the words of the prophet in the mouth of the suffering Jesus; it contrasts the Divine Compassion manifested in the wonders of the Exodus with the faithless and cruel response of those upon whom God had set His Heart.

The Reproaches

O my people, what have I done to thee?
Or wherein have I aggrieved thee?
Answer me.
Because I led thee out of the land of Egypt:
thou hast prepared a Cross for thy Saviour.

Because I guided thee forth through the desert for forty years,
and thee with manna,
and brought thee into a right good land,
thou hast prepared a Cross for thy Saviour.

What more could I have done for that I have not done?
I, even I, planted thee to be my fairest vineyard;
and thou hast made thyself exceeding bitter to me;
for thou hast slaked my thirst with vinegar,
and pierced with a lance thy Saviour's side.

The underlying theme of the Improperia is the tragedy of God's unrequited love. The Improperia are one of sources of the spirituality of reparation that the Holy Spirit has stirred up in every age.

The Idea of Reparation

"The first great revelation of the Heart of Jesus," writes Alfred O'Rahilly in his Life of Father William Doyle, S.J., "is contained in the seventh chapter of Saint Luke's Gospel. 'Dost thou see this woman?' Christ said to Simon. 'I entered into thy house, thou gavest Me no water for My feet -- but she with tears hath washed My feet and with her hair hath wiped them. My head with oil thou didst not anoint -- but she with ointment hath anointed My feet . . . She hath loved much.' This detailed antithesis, this careful balancing of neglect with service, this sensitive juxtaposition of Simon and Magdalen in the Heart of Christ, contains the essence of the idea of reparation. That is, if Our Lord's life and mission is more than a simple historical event and is still accessible to us who live in these latter days.

But Thou?

Many a Simon nowadays treats Christ with studied slight and scorn, and we -- is the role of Magdalen closed to us? Cannot Christ still address the sinner, 'Thou . . . but she . . .?' Cannot our loving much even now prevail and repair? And to the solitary adorer does there not still from the Tabernacle come the whisper, 'The nine -- where are they?' (Luke 17, 17.)"

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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