03 Oct. Monday of the 27th Week
Jonah 1:1ff. Jonah tries to flee from God, but the sailors throw him overboard and a whale brings him to dry land.
Luke 10:25ff. The parable of the Good Samaritan, to explain “who is my neighbour?”
Today’s texts deal with divine reversals. Sometimes we may resemble Jonah who attempted to use the sea to flee away from the God of earth and sea. But God has wonderful ways of bringing us back to our senses, extraordinary ways to correct even our orthodox theology by appealing to pagans and heretics. It can seem whimsical on God’s part, to advise us, who possess the truth, by means of our enemies who are wrong.
The dramatic reversals begin with the 1st Reading from the Book of Jonah. The paradox begins on the first line: all other prophets speak in poetry, while Jonah is written in prose; all others preach to Israelites, Jonah to foreigners; other prophets usually fail in converting Israel, Jonah succeeds in converting foreigners. The prophecy of Jonah speaks of a spiritual extension of God’s kingdom while preserving the political independence of Assyria. Last but not least, elsewhere in the Bible, Assyria is the most hated and feared of all foreign nations, second only to Babylon. In Jonah the Assyrians are more open to God’s grace than the Israelite prophet.
God is determined to teach Israel a stern lesson by means of the foreigners. While on board, Jonah sleeps and must be wakened by the pagan sailor, “What are you doing asleep? Rise up, call on your God. Perhaps God will be mindful of us that we may not perish.” Even after the lots fall on Jonah and it is evident that he is guilty in “fleeing from the Lord,” they still hesitate to take his life by throwing him into the sea, until he insists on it himself.
Dramatic reversals take a different twist in the letter to the Galatians(*2), where Paul insists on the authentic truth of his gospel, namely that in the community based on Christ there is no distinction based on Jew or Greek, slave or free person, male or female, for all are united in Jesus (Gal 3:28). This statement, which we will read again on Saturday of this week(*2), is the keystone to Paul’s entire ministry. This insight came to him directly – he did not learn it from Peter or any of the other apostles. Jesus had sent the twelve apostles to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5), but Paul turns to foreigners, not only for subjects to convert, but also for new styles of worship. Israel could not learn exclusively from her own traditions what God intended as the full and final meaning of her covenant.
A hint of this new openness to outsiders was given by the author of the Book of Jonah. Another comes from today’s gospel. A lawyer-theologian posed a problem to Jesus about everlasting life, one of the deepest and most serious of all theological questions, and then tried to justify himself because he already knew the the answer. He asked, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus turned to the Samaritans for an answer, to a people who were despised and rejected by Israel as heretics and spoilers of the Torah.
How do we regard our “Samaritan” or “Assyrian” neighbour, those we hate or look down on, who are ignorant and willfully wrong, who have harmed us and taken advantage of us. Listen, Jesus tells us, listen to them as they teach you how to pray and to follow God’s holy will. Listen as they silently turn aside and care for their wounded enemy along the road. Listen, because we who are correct can be so biased and self-righteous, so proud and pious that we miss the signals of wonder and goodness flashed through the darkness to keep us on the course of God’s blessed will.
First Reading: Jo 1:1-2:2, 10
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.
But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and such a mighty storm came upon the sea that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried to his god. They threw the cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten it for them. Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep. The captain came and said to him, “What are you doing sound asleep? Get up, call on your god! Perhaps the god will spare us a thought so that we do not perish.”
The sailors said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, so that we may know on whose account this calamity has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us why this calamity has come upon us. What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?”
“I am a Hebrew,” he replied. “I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were even more afraid, and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them so.
Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea was growing more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great storm has come upon you.” Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more an more stormy against them.
Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, O Lord, we pray, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life. Do not make us guilty of innocent blood; for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked Jonah up and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord even more, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.
But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called to the Lord out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. Then the Lord spoke to the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon the dry land.
Gospel: Luke 10:25-37
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal lie?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise”