ASHLAND — “And removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph’s hand; and he had him dressed in robes of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck.” (Genesis 41:42)

Clothing with fine robes is a motif in Sacred Scripture and other sacred texts. It signals a change to a new and higher status, bestowed by a person of high rank.

Joseph of Egypt, who was appointed steward of Pharaoh's household, experienced this clothing, after being stripped of his multi-colored robe by his brothers and left to die.

What did the loss of Joseph’s beautiful robe, given to him by his father Jacob, mean? Among other things, Joseph apparently lost his status as Jacob’s favorite son. In fact, the motivation of envy and jealousy of his brothers did not change Joseph’s relationship with his father, but it certainly changed his circumstances and life trajectory.

We, who have been welcomed into God’s household, resemble the son in Luke 15 who departed from his father with his inheritance, and squandered his riches on frivolous and sinful pursuits. Coming to his senses when he is reduced to eating the husks of the fodder given to the pigs, the son returns to his father.

“His father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.’” (Luke 15:22)

Imagine the wayward son’s amazement at being treated with such undeserved benevolence and generosity by the father he had insulted (taking his inheritance before the father’s death, effectively wishing him dead).

Isn’t this our experience? We discover that God loves us lavishly in Christ — not because of our meritorious action, but because God is love and looks with kindness and compassion on his erring children.

Our attitude must be one of unfathomable gratitude and what the great scholar and teacher Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel called “radical amazement.”

Jesus reminds us strongly and even starkly that there is a condition for our being shown mercy — that we show mercy toward others, including our enemies (cf. Matthew 5: 7 and 10). Friends show us benevolent love — wanting the best for us; enemies are those who do not wish us well, and even do us harm.

These who don’t “deserve” our forgiveness are precisely those to whom we are called to show benevolent kindness and mercy.

May Lent 2021 be a time of seeing how wondrously we are “clothed” with God’s finest robes — new life in Christ. May we, in turn, “clothe” others, including those who least deserve it, with mercy, forgiveness, kindness and generosity.

Murphy is a member of Our Lady of the Mountain Parish.