The Responsorial Psalm proclaims, “Lord, you are tender and full of love” (Psalm 86).
In Jonah 4: 1-11 Jonah is angry because God did not destroy Nineveh. He was thinking about that one city in Iraq the way we once thought about the whole country: how evil and dangerous it was; what a threat it was to us and to our prosperous society. Many were angry because we did not destroy Iraq after the Gulf War. Many voted to destroy it later so that we might feel safe.
God reminded Jonah there were in Nineveh “more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot distinguish their right hand from their left” — presumably infants. But Jonah still wanted the city destroyed. About a month after the Gulf War, a Harvard Study Team reported to the President that 55,000 children under five had already died because we had bombed Iraq’s electrical plants, destroying the water-treatment systems, and that at least another 170,000 children would die during the coming year if the economic sanctions we imposed on Iraq were not lifted. We chose to let them die. If Saddam Hussein was at fault for not complying with our terms, we became his partners in letting children pay the price.1
Our knee-jerk solution to situations that threaten us is violence. Our government wants us to be perceived as a nation that is powerful and full of vengeance against anyone who attacks us. But God thinks differently: “Lord, you are tender and full of love.” Whom do we follow?
In Luke 11: 1-4 Jesus teaches us that if we choose to follow him we should conform our hearts to his by making the petitions of the Our Father our first priorities. These are the goals Jesus lived and died for. If we make them our priorities we will learn how to pray — and what we should pray and work for.
These goals are already achieved! The Our Father is an “eschatological” prayer that asks for the “end time,” for Christ’s victory to be complete. We need to work for God’s victory in our time, but in God’s time it already is: “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now — and forever!”
This is the source of our hope. Jesus has already won. “Take courage,” he said on the eve of his apparent defeat on the cross: “I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33). He says the same to us today. As stewards of his kingship we need to keep working with unfailing hope to bring about change in the world.
1 The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported in December, 1995, that by that date more than one million Iraqis had died — more than 600,000 of them children — as a direct result of our economic sanctions. By September, 1997, this was updated to 750,000 children.
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Take hope, give hope, and work with hope.