In the first reading we hear how the prophet Micah uses a clever literary device to capture the attention of his audience. He evokes the language of the Covenant with its notions of good will, fidelity and trust, and he then chastises the Israelites for being unfaithful to their Covenant with God.
He compares it to the first bloom of love in a newly engaged couple in contrast to that same couple years later, on the brink of separation, because of serious marital failure. Much of the hope, flexibility and the give-and-take of early-married life have given way to hard-edged demands carved in stone. And here we see the difference between covenant and contract. Israel’s relationship with God has changed because of the people’s failures: they haven’t lived up to their side of the bargain.
But then Micah reminds us that there is always hope for reconciliation, for a return to the days of the first bloom of love, because God is both just and forgiving. All that is required is for us to embrace those earlier attitudes again: to do what is right, to love goodness and to walk humbly with God.
Although Micah places humility last in his list, it is really the cornerstone for the other two. Humility requires that we take stock of ourselves, of our relationships and our actions in the clear light of day without bias, excuse or blame, much as a lawyer might examine the facts of a case. But then humility further requires that we admit our shortcomings and place ourselves at the mercy of God. Like the Israelites we too can learn that the promise of the Covenant is most often fulfilled in the day-to-day details of living it out.