05 Oct. Wednesday of the 27th Week
Jonah 4:1ff. Jonah complains and wants to die, enraged that the compassionate God has spared Nineveh.
Luke 11:1ff. The Lucan version of the Our Father stresses daily needs and daily temptation.
Who Can Be Saved?
If the Kingdom of God is to extend throughout the universe, the qualities of faith, patience, and trust in God must be stressed. But externals are also necessary, to manifest this inner life. Where there is no breath nor pulse, a person is assumed to be dead. Today’s Scripture reflects this healthy balance between principles and their application, just as yesterday’s linked the examples of contemplative Mary and activist Martha.
We have already noted the paradoxes in the Book of Jonah. The prophet who claimed to worship the Lord “who made the sea and the dry land” seeks to flee from the Lord” by taking a long sea voyage. Today’s paradox is even more poignant. Jonah knew his Torah very well and would know that God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness” (Exod 34:7). So Jonah feared to preach in the name of such a God, who would have compassion on Jonah’s enemies, the people of Nineveh. The book now centres on the object of God’s compassion. Jonah is willing to bypass the Ninevites, but he becomes angry when God fails to save the gourd plant. The selfish prophet thinks God must show compassion on this little tree, that shades Jonah from the fierce sun and burning east wind. God’s reply blends a good lesson with whimsical concern: You are concerned for the plant… Should I not be concerned for Nineveh, with all its inhabitants?
In Galatians(*2), Paul states the origin and validity of his message that gentiles are “coheirs” with Jesus in the promises of Abraham. This was no revolt for, prompted by a revelation he laid out for the scrutiny of the original band of apostles and disciples the gospel he preached to the gentiles. It is summarized in a famous statement, to be read later this week (Saturday): Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28).
While the Torah retained its value as a guideline (Rom 15:4), nonetheless gentiles were redeemed immediately by faith in Jesus. Circumcision and dietary laws were no longer obligatory. Paul was so convinced of this new freedom in Christ Jesus, that when Peter came to Antioch and would not sit to eat a meal with gentiles, Paul blamed him, “for he was clearly in the wrong.”
In order to harmonize the principles of God’s Kingdom with daily life, freedom in Christ Jesus with the demands of the apostolate, we need patience with people’s difficulties and long-standing habits. Life is not concentrated on the single moment of death or of Christ’s second coming, but is to be embraced in its own rhythms, day by day. Luke, therefore, adapted the Our Father, so as no longer to refer to a single, crucial moment as in Matthew 6:9-13 but to the extended and continuous practice of the faith.
Like Peter in today’s reading from Galatians, we too succumb to temptation and sin. Our good intentions are marred by fear and false motives. We need the strength of daily prayer and even of daily Eucharist. Luke’s Our Father quickly became the prayer before holy communion in the early church. The blend of principles with daily needs was to leave no single moment of life unaffected.
First Reading: Jo 4:1-11
But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city. The Lord God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east win, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labour and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”
Gospel: Luke 11:1-4
He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.”