Saint for the day: St. John XXIII (November 25, 1881 – June 3, 1993)
Jonah 4:1-11 – Psalm 86 – Luke 11:1-4
“God is true: He has a long memory for his promises and a short memory for our failure to keep ours.”
What is the essence of the ‘story of Jonah? What are we to learn from this short, but powerful account of this prophet of God? Part of our answer might come from it’s being put up against Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray. We’re not told much about Jonah’s origin or previous life before the first verses of this book: “… in those days the Word of God came to Jonah to set forth to preach disaster to the Ninivites…”
Then we can see a clear outline of what happens: he hears the Word of God … and tries to run away from it! He’s saved by an attempt to kill him when he’s thrown into the sea and a huge fish swallows him only to spit him up at the place where he was supposed to go in the first place. This echoes my little phrase, “Why is it that every time I take two steps forward I fall back three? But I usually get there anyway, ‘cause I was usually going in the wrong direction in the first place”
When the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray their thinking might have been, “now we’re going to get the ‘inside story’ from the horses mouth.” What they get is the simple, but powerful outline of how and what to pray for. They are not given some “cracker-jack” sure-fire method of “prosperity praying” like the TVangelists offer but rather the essence of the “Shemma, Israel” – “Love God completely and your neighbor as your self. Forgive others and you will be forgiven.” Let the quote that I gave at the beginning of this reflection keep us on track: “God has a long memory for His promises and a short memory for our failures.” If we look at everything in our lives as “gift” then our prayer would always be “thank you, God!” Problems come when we start negotiating with God over how His gifts should be used. “I thank you, Oh God … if this or that comes about. Our thanks needs always to be unconditional. “You did nothing to make the castor oil tree grow and you have no right to be mad at Me when it is taken away. “Give us this day… everything that we need … for today.” Let tomorrow take care of itself. Amen!