Monday, Week Twenty-Seven
The Responsorial is Jonah’s prayer of thanksgiving: “You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord” (Jonah 2: 2-8).
Jonah 1:1 to 2:11 shows us a man who, though a prophet, did not have the spirit of love, and did not want to do God’s work in God’s way. To Jonah the people of Nineveh were the enemy; he wanted God to destroy them. When sent to call them to conversion he fled from God.
That Jonah had to die — not physically, but as all of us die in Baptism: by being incorporated into the death of Jesus on the cross, going down into the grave with him and rising in him to live a new life as a “new creation” (2Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15). That is what happened symbolically when Jonah was swallowed up into the belly of the fish and spit out three days later.
In Jonah’s story and in Matthew 8:24 both Jonah and Jesus are sleeping during the storm that is threatening their boat. When they “rise” God calms the storm: the first when Jonah accepts to sacrifice his life; the second when, with a single word, Jesus shows himself to be the “God who made the sea and the dry land,” for “even the winds and the sea obey him.” However, this miracle, like all his saving, healing miracles, was rooted in his own sacrificial death on the cross (see Matthew 8:17, Isaiah 53:4). So when we take responsibility for saving the society that is sinking around us, or the Church that seems to be making no headway against the opposing winds and currents of our times, we can only do it by “dying” to our way of doing things and “rising “to live as Jesus: “You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.”
In Luke 10: 25-37 Jesus teaches us that God’s way is the way of love. The Great Commandment that should rule every response we make to God or other people is love.
Jesus makes it specific that this love knows no boundaries, nationalistic or otherwise. In contrast to Jonah, who did not want to help the Ninevites, the hero of Jesus’ story is a Samaritan, with whom the Jews were in nationalistic and religious conflict (see Luke 9:52-53; John 4:9). It was this Samaritan who showed himself a “neighbor” to the wounded Jew. And for those who accept the “catholic,” the “universal” Church, there can be no distinction in the love we give to fellow-citizens and foreigners, to friends and enemies. We are specifically commanded to love our enemies with the love Jesus showed for us “while we were still sinners” (John 13:34; Romans 5:8, Matthew 9:13; 5:44). When Christians work to “renew the face of the earth” we work to renew it for all.
Action: Be Christ’s steward. Renew the world through universal love.