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Jonah and the Prayer

First Reading: Jonah 1:1–2:1-2, 11

This is the word of the LORD that came to Jonah, son of Amittai:

“Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it;
their wickedness has come up before me.”
But Jonah made ready to flee to Tarshish away from the LORD.
He went down to Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish,
paid the fare, and went aboard to journey with them to Tarshish,
away from the LORD.

The LORD, however, hurled a violent wind upon the sea,
and in the furious tempest that arose
the ship was on the point of breaking up.
Then the mariners became frightened and each one cried to his god.
To lighten the ship for themselves, they threw its cargo into the sea.
Meanwhile, Jonah had gone down into the hold of the ship,
and lay there fast asleep.
The captain came to him and said, “What are you doing asleep?
Rise up, call upon your God!
Perhaps God will be mindful of us so that we may not perish.”

Then they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots
to find out on whose account we have met with this misfortune.”
So they cast lots, and thus singled out Jonah.
“Tell us,” they said, “what is your business?
Where do you come from?
What is your country, and to what people do you belong?”
Jonah answered them, “I am a Hebrew,
I worship the LORD, the God of heaven,
who made the sea and the dry land.”

Now the men were seized with great fear and said to him,
“How could you do such a thing!–
They knew that he was fleeing from the LORD,
because he had told them.–
They asked, “What shall we do with you,
that the sea may quiet down for us?”
For the sea was growing more and more turbulent.
Jonah said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,
that it may quiet down for you;
since I know it is because of me
that this violent storm has come upon you.”

Still the men rowed hard to regain the land, but they could not,
for the sea grew ever more turbulent.
Then they cried to the LORD: “We beseech you, O LORD,
let us not perish for taking this man’s life;
do not charge us with shedding innocent blood,
for you, LORD, have done as you saw fit.”
Then they took Jonah and threw him into the sea,
and the sea’s raging abated.
Struck with great fear of the LORD,
the men offered sacrifice and made vows to him.

But the LORD sent a large fish, that swallowed Jonah;
and Jonah remained in the belly of the fish
three days and three nights.
From the belly of the fish Jonah prayed
to the LORD, his God.
Then the LORD commanded the fish to spew Jonah upon the shore.

Responsorial Psalm: Jonah 2:3, 4, 5, 8

R. You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.

Out of my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me;
From the midst of the nether world I cried for help,
and you heard my voice.

R. You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.

For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the sea,
and the flood enveloped me;
All your breakers and your billows
passed over me.

R. You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.

Then I said, “I am banished from your sight!
yet would I again look upon your holy temple.”

R. You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.

When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered the LORD;
My prayer reached you
in your holy temple.

R. You will rescue my life from the pit, O Lord.

Gospel: Luke 10:25-37

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said,
“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?
How do you read it?”
He said in reply,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus,
“And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied,
“A man fell victim to robbers
as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road,
but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
Likewise a Levite came to the place,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.
But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him
was moved with compassion at the sight.
He approached the victim,
poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.
Then he lifted him up on his own animal,
took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins
and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,
‘Take care of him.
If you spend more than what I have given you,
I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion,
was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”
Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

NAB

oct 5

In today’s reading, Jonah receives the word from the Lord and immediately makes ready. Makes ready to flee, that is! To flee away from the Lord!

I wonder why Jonah so quickly ran away from God. I’m wondering if he heard “Nineveh” and thought, “Heck no, no way I’m going there!” I wonder if he thought, “There’s no way I’m doing that! I’m no preacher!” Maybe he was afraid of the city, the people there, or maybe he feared failure. Maybe he was unforgiving and didn’t want God to have mercy on that city. Regardless, Jonah fled “away from the Lord,” but it’s not so effective to try to run away from God.

We all know the story, but what I’m most struck by is Jonah’s prayer of thanksgiving, which we read as today’s Psalm, that he prays while still in the belly of the fish! Jonah prays to God in anticipation for saving his life, thanking God and praising Him  for rescuing him which God had not yet completely done at the time Jonah was making that prayer! (I don’t know if I’d be so grateful to God if I were being digested by a fish/whale for even three seconds . . .) And yet it is Jonah’s faith and confidence that he knows God will save him that is a witness to us. It is a very powerful form of prayer to confidently thank and praise God for His mercy in our lives even before He has worked those miracles in us. I think that kind of prayer greatly pleases God’s heart. Jonah may have run away from the Lord, but he sure knew how to pray and he sure knew how to allow his life experiences to bring him conversion!

Jonah’s story is a story of God’s mercy. It is a story of compassion like the story of the Good Samaritan in today’s Gospel. Through the sacraments, it is Jesus who is our Good Samaritan who pours wine and oil over us, and bandages up our wounds. God can and will use all of our life experiences for good, whether it is our sins of turning away from God like Jonah, or our wounds from others or from life experiences like the man in the Gospel. God is writing a beautiful story with you. What’s your story?

What is the story of God’s mercy in your life? How can you give thanks and praise today for His deliverance? Can you dare to praise and thank God in anticipation for the miracles He has not yet worked in your life?

Mary Catherine Craige is a lover of creativity and learning new things. When she is not guiding the development of young children through Montessori methods, you can find her behind her harp, taking an art class, or writing silly poems. You can find out more about her here.

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