Daily Gospel Reading - March 16, 2011
The Demand for a Sign
29While still more people gathered in the crowd, [Jesus] said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. 30Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. 32At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
The Sign of Jonah
Jonah is an escape artist. He flees from his assigned task. He weathers the storm and gets out of the belly of a large fish. But he cannot escape his destiny. He cannot escape from the Lord!
We sometimes avoid responsibilities and challenges. We can delay, postpone, or even hide, but our destiny will always be before us. The Lord will be with us, and our conscience will speak from within us.
The signs are simple: Can you sleep well? Can you face God? Are you at peace? Do not seek other signs, as Jesus’ generation did. Look rather for courage, for inner strength, and for God’s will for you. Search your heart. What is God asking from you at this particular moment at this particular place? Life calls you to live fully. Follow God’s will, and God will always be with you.
The hero Jonah is probably traced to a prophet, Jonah ben Amittai (2 Kgs 14:25), but the story in the Book of Jonah is a didactic fiction or parable, filled with wonders from beginning to end: the storm, the big fish (whale), the gourd plant, and the instant conversion of Nineveh. It is an idle effort to search after the species of fish that swallowed and spewed out Jonah. Rather, the story contrasts God’s mercy and the narrow exclusivism of Jonah who represents that attitude in Judaism after the exile in Babylon.
Be on time and do not procrastinate.
Daily Gospel Reading - March 15, 2011
The Lord’s Prayer
[Jesus said to his disciples,] 7“In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9“This is how you are to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
11Give us today our daily bread;
12and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors;
13and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.
14If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him
There seems no need for our petitions, for a litany of wants and needs, for a list of intentions and recommendations. The Father knows all of them even before we ask. In fact, God knows the number of hair on our heads! So is there no need to pray anymore? The Father knows what we will ask for anyway.
But wait, God does not know whether we will thank him or not, praise him or not, forgive or not, and follow his will or not. This can only come from us freely.
So talk to God about what he does not expect; God will listen and bless you. Praise and thank God, and receive God’s forgiveness. As Jesus promises, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Mt 6:33). Next time you pray the “Our Father,” focus less on the daily bread. Pray and feel more “your will be done” and “as we forgive.” Thank God as Our Father who loves us and experience God thus.
The familiarity and intimacy conjured by fatherhood may have prevented the Israelites from addressing God as “father.” Rarely is fatherhood applied to God, and only in the context of Israel’s creation and election as God’s very own people. When Jesus addresses God as Abba (“dear father”) and teaches his disciples to do likewise, he is introducing something new, even revolutionary. Yet this kind of relationship—simple, secure, intimate—is precisely what Jesus reveals as the definite image of God. He is, above all, Father.
Take time to thank God.