God Wants All To Be Saved
God is a saving God. He calls all people to salvation in Jesus Christ, and he does not discriminate or segregate. His kingdom is open to all people, all races, all cultures, all languages, and all walks of life. And those who are most in need are given preference. For he is the Father of all and cares for those for whom people do not care. Do we do enough to bring his Son to all? Do we open the Christian community to all, without any discrimination? Or is there a bit of Jonah alive in us?
The disciples must have admired Jesus when he prayed, for when he had finished, they asked him to teach them to pray. This is indeed what we too should ask him in this Eucharist, that our prayer may be wide and deep like his, giving honour to the Father and bringing to him the stream of the needs and concerns of all. And like him too, in our prayers we try not to bend God’s will to ours, but ours to God’s will and Intercessions.
1 Reading: Jonah 4:1-11
Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry that God did not carry out the evil he threatened against Nineveh. He prayed, “I beseech you, LORD, is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? This is why I fled at first to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, loath to punish. And now, LORD, please take my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.” But the LORD asked, “Have you reason to be angry?” Jonah then left the city for a place to the east of it, where he built himself a hut and waited under it in the shade, to see what would happen to the city. And when the LORD God provided a gourd plant that grew up over Jonah’s head, giving shade that relieved him of any discomfort, Jonah was very happy over the plant. But the next morning at dawn God sent a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. And when the sun arose, God sent a burning east wind; and the sun beat upon Jonah’s head till he became faint. Then Jonah asked for death, saying, “I would be better off dead than alive.” But God said to Jonah, “Have you reason to be angry over the plant?” “I have reason to be angry,” Jonah answered, “angry enough to die.” Then the LORD said, “You are concerned over the plant which cost you no labour and which you did not raise; it came up in one night and in one night it perished. And should I not be concerned over Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot distinguish their right hand from their left, not to mention the many cattle?”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 86:3-4, 5-6, 9-10
R. (15) Lord, you are merciful and gracious.
Have mercy on me, O Lord,
for to you I call all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. R.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading. R.
All the nations you have made shall come
and worship you, O Lord,
and glorify your name.
For you are great, and you do wondrous deeds;
you alone are God. R.
Alleluia: Romans 8:15bc
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
You have received a spirit of adoption as sons
through which we cry: Abba! Father!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Luke 11:1-4
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just 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 in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”
Today’s readings join the end of the Jonah story and the Lucan version of the Lord’s Prayer. Jonah is a very hapless fellow. He is angry at Yahweh for saving the Ninevites. And he is upset about every subsequent turn of events in his life. He has preached repentance to the Ninevites, and surprising to him, they have turned to the Lord. Then he complains when a plant God causes to grow to shelter him from the sun withers and fades after only a day. Yahweh’s rejoinder is a classic. He observes that Jonah is upset by the loss of a gourd plant. But how much more strongly should God feel about the loss of 120,000 Ninevites?
The Lucan version of the Lord’s Prayer has two petitions that look to God and three that look to us here on the human scene. In praying for God’s name to be hallowed, we pray that it be reverenced and sanctified. We then pray that his kingdom, that era of justice and especially concern for the poor, be inaugurated. The final three petitions ask for our daily sustenance, a deep spirit of forgiveness akin to that by which God forgives, and a deliverance from the end-time battle between good and evil that was part of Israelite eschatology.
Jonah ends with a clear sign of God’s forgiveness. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. When it comes to our enemies in our time, for whatever reason, our only petition should be forgiveness. Forgive our enemies who have turned on us; forgive us who have turned on them. Jonah failed to grasp the lesson. May the same not be said of us.
We call ourselves “Catholics,” don’t we? That is, people universal by definition. How concerned are we about other people and their lasting happiness? People, near or far, should be our concern. Keep them in mind, with the blessing of almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!