October 4, 2021
by Edward Morse
Creighton University's School of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi
Lectionary: 461

Jonah 1:1–2:1-2, 11
Jonah 2:3, 4, 5, 8
Luke 10:25-37

Praying Ordinary Time

About St. Francis of Assisi from Saint of the Day

Today’s readings begin with Jonah’s flight from his prophetic duties.  Jonah understood his assignment from the Lord: go to Nineveh and preach there.  He knew the Lord and he also knew human nature.  Jonah reasoned that if he preached in Nineveh, the Ninevites might repent.  If they repented, God would show them mercy.  Jonah apparently thought the Ninevites more worthy of judgment than mercy and he decided that going somewhere other than Nineveh would prevent the mercy outcome.  What a chess player!  

But poor Jonah did not anticipate the Lord’s next move.  Jonah knew about God’s judgment and mercy, but he had a blind spot for God’s providential authority.  In this case, God decided to move other people (his fellow mariners), creatures (the great fish), and events (the storm) to bring Jonah to Nineveh despite his apparent objections to cooperation.  Apparently, the Lord really wanted to extend mercy to those Ninevites!

One cannot help but notice the reluctance of Jonah’s fellow mariners to throw Jonah out of the ship.  The witness of the natural law was active within them, despite knowing the Lord only remotely and by reputation, as evidenced by their fearful response to Jonah’s disclosure. They earnestly tried to save his life along with their own.  But they eventually followed Jonah’s prophetic voice, even turning to God in prayer for mercy.  Jonah also received mercy in being discharged from the great fish, albeit a form of mercy that put him the realm of the Ninevites and back on the path to fulfilling his prophet duties.  Sorry, Jonah, but we can’t always get what we want. 

Today’s gospel continues this theme of God’s mercy.  Jesus responds to his inquisitor, a scholar of the law, with the familiar parable of the righteous Samaritan.  One surmises that the scholar was strong on the knowledge front, but probably not as good when it comes to execution.  The lesson from the Samaritan’s example likely challenged the scholar, who might have preferred the neighbor concept to be illustrated by scholars inviting their smart friends over for a Torah study!  That might be a good thing – but it would not convey such a strong message about extending mercy to those who are quite different from us, not to mention the reality that others we might not think too much of may be better at showing mercy than we are.

As an academic, I can relate to the scholar’s discomfort.  We like to emphasize our strengths that coincide with giftedness that comes from God.  But sometimes Jesus asks us to embrace our weaknesses to follow him.  To “go and do likewise” is going to be tough for many of us.  Yet we know from this and other teaching that showing mercy is the path to receiving mercy, which we all need.  Like Jonah, we might prefer another path, but perhaps the Lord will keep working our life circumstances to bring us more encounters that help us learn to execute this simple mission.

Lord, we know many people in our lives who need our mercy, but we are prone to judging them instead of loving them.  Help us to go and do likewise as the Samaritan showed us.  And help us to realize your providential work in our lives to bring us to know you and your mercy.  Thanks be to God.

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.

Sharing this reflection with others by Email, on Facebook or Twitter:

Email this pageFacebookTwitter

Print Friendly

See all the Resources we offer on our Online Ministries Home Page

Daily Reflection Home

Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook