Jonah 4:1-11; Psalm 86:3-4, 5-6, 9-10; Luke 11:1-4
“Have you reason to be angry?’’ The first reading today gives a message of despair, lack of trust and suffering. Jonah appears to me to be a person who easily condemns and rather than stay the course and try to make a situation better chooses instead to run away, tattle and wait for others to suffer. Instead of being a spokesperson for God, Jonah isolates himself, considers only his perspective and states, “ I would be better off dead than alive,”which seems to be exactly the way Jonah is experiencing life. Throughout the entire First Reading Jonah is not engaged in life, he doesn’t raise the gourd plant and does not put any effort into understanding or trying to relieve any one’s suffering, including his own. Rather he stands by being angry at life, angry with himself and his surroundings but does nothing to improve the situation. This reading reminded me over and over again of our need to be Contemplative in action. Certainly we need to see what is happening in our lives; to not just feel sorrowful and in pain but, rather, we need to discern what our actions should be to change our suffering and the suffering of people in our world community.
For me, the response to the Psalm is filled with goodness and hope. “Lord, you are merciful and gracious.” The Psalm reminds me of my need to pray daily and to know that God is a loving God who wants us to use our gifts to enrich the lives of others along with enriching our own lives. The Psalms affirm my faith and God’s relationships with all people who express their faith, believe and call upon God for guidance, strength, and affirmation of life decisions.
The final reading from Luke makes me stop and consider the power of praying the Our Father. We are reminded to praise even the name “God” who is our father. The prayer tells me of my need to trust and to ask for what it is that God knows I need on a day-to-day basis. We are reminded to simply trust, that if we ask for what God knows we need daily and trust, God will provide for our needs every day.
We are human and we do make mistakes and so in remaining humble, we must ask for forgiveness and to remember that our fellow human beings also make mistakes. As we ask for forgiveness for our mistakes, so too should we forgive others. And in our communities, unlike Jonah in the First Reading, we need to engage and participate, being aware of our human imperfections asking for what it is God knows we need and then to engage in life. In the end we are asked to love ourselves and to love our fellow man/woman.
And the final test? What could that be? Death? The Apocalypse? A task that would most frighten and challenge us? I asked several of the students to read Luke’s Gospel and tell me what the Final test is. Many of them responded “death” but then “do not subject us to death” isn’t a part of our Christian faith, as we rejoice at the end of our earthly death and look forward to eternal life. Another student responded, “The final test is that test that brings an end to further growth and development, really a death experience.”
Or, what if the final test is when we realize we did not live life with faith and trust in God. Living a life, rejecting God, relying only on ourselves and then when “tested” we come to realize that we did not live our lives with faith in God and realize that we can not move forward on our own.
“Do not subject us to the final test” is what our Lord asked while praying in the garden. Asking if the Final test could pass over Him… And yet Jesus, knowing what was to come, accepted. So for us the Final Test may be that task that would most frighten and challenge us unless we, relying on our faith in God, are willing to open ourselves to the test, to challenge ourselves and to grow deeper in our faith, our trust and our love for Our Lord God and Our Savior.
By Maria Shadle-Cusic