Jonah 3:1-10 Luke 10: 38-42
Most Reverend Bishop Foys, I thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts this evening. I am blessed and truly honored.
The first reading began with the following:
“The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time.”
That should prompt us to ask, “What happened the first time?”
What we just heard was the middle of the story of Jonah.
Jonah was a prophet,
one who brought God’s messages to the people,
messages designed to help the people to follow God’s will.
God had called Jonah to go to Nineveh to deliver such a message.
Nineveh was a large town, the capital of Assyria.
in what is now Iraq.
The Assyrians were the pagan enemies of the Israelites.
The evil of Nineveh had come before God,
and Jonah was to go there and preach against the evil.
Jonah didn’t really want to go to Nineveh.
After all, he was going into enemy territory
and he probably knew that the fate of many prophets
was death at the hand of those to whom they were sent.
So Jonah got on a boat going in the opposite direction,
was thrown overboard, swallowed by a big fish,
the famous “whale,” and deposited back on land.
God was telling Jonah, “Not so fast! I’m in control here.”
Sometimes people do not get the message the first time.
I can understand that, I am a teacher.
So “The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time.”
This time Jonah recognized God’s insistence and went to Nineveh.
His assignment was to tell the Ninevites
that they had 40 days to clean up their act
and if they didn’t, God would destroy the town.
Certainly, Jonah thought that he had a big task before him.
He expected three days of opposition or outright hostility.
But it turned out to be a one day job
and the message was heard.
The message was so clear and so effective, apparently,
that the pagan king ordered all in Nineveh to repent,
to wear sackcloth, even the animals, and to observe a Fast.
The evil of Nineveh was turned around, all the people repented,
and, God, therefore did not exert his wrath on the city.
End of today’s story, but there is the rest of the story.
After the conversion of the Ninevites, Jonah went into a funk.
He was angry with God that he let the Ninevites off too easily.
He thought that they should have had some punishment
for all the evil that they had embraced.
Apparently he wanted the pleasure
of seeing the Ninevites get their “comeuppance.”
He was envious of the mercy that God had shown to them.
Jonah was thinking his own need for vengeance
and his envy of God’s love and mercy for the evil Ninevites.
God explained to Jonah that forgiving the destruction of the city
and the people was not his, Jonah’s, responsibility,
but that it was God’s responsibility.
God elected not to kill the Ninevites and destroy their city.
After all, we know that God is Pro Life.
I see three elements in the story of Jonah that can be applied to us:
1. How do we answer God’s call?
2. What then are our expectations about our service to God?
3. What is our response to seeing God’s mercy in others
as we go about doing our work as a result of God’s call?
How many of us might react as Jonah did
when WE first feel God’s call to some action?
Is our response, “Oh! That’s not something I WANT to do?”
“And besides I don’t have the time or the energy for it.”
Or is it, “It does not fit MY gifts and talents?”
“I certainly wouldn’t want to attempt to do something
for God and the Church, and FOUL IT UP.”
Does that ring true about any of us?
It is not about what we want.
It is clearly about what God wants.
Sometimes it takes a lot of discernment to get
the feel for what God wants.
But, God is persistent; God will keep after us.
Faith in God is the answer to
“Oh, I don’t have the time or the talents.
I could really make a mess of things if I got involved.”
If God is calling you to do something,
he will make the time for you
AND he will be sure that you are qualified.
There is a saying,
“It is not that God calls just those qualified,
it’s that he qualifies those he calls.”
God calls each of us to serve Him and
and he has already given us the qualifications we need.
Faith in God provides us with the confidence to answer God’s call.
As I look back, God had been calling me to become a deacon
for about ten years, before I finally opened myself
to the promptings of the Holy Spirit
and decided that I wanted to enter the formation program.
I had to get past what I wanted
and have the faith to accept what God wants.
The Holy Spirit was persistent,
and now I THINK that I have found what God wants.
This first part of the story of Jonah
should prompt us to ask ourselves:
“Are we open to the plan God has for each of us?”
The second point is that, as we carry out God’s call,
we may see that it is not always what we have expected.
Jonah found his task to be much easier
than he thought it would be.
In the end I have found that my vocation in the diaconate
is much more enjoyable and fulfilling
than I could have ever predicted it would be.
Again it requires faith, faith that
whatever God has called us to
will be joyful service to his people.
And thirdly, as we carry out our call, whatever that might be,
we should be experiencing God’s love and His mercy
and take great joy in that love and mercy.
We are gathered this evening for a unified purpose,
to celebrate life in the context of celebrating
God’s sending of His only begotten Son,
to live with us, to die for us,
and to live again with us in the Eucharist,
all for our salvation.
And, like Jonah, we have been called to a special purpose
by he Holy Spirit.
Some of us may have tried to turn away
from that call thinking that marching for life,
in Washington or in Mt. Auburn,
that questioning a woman’s right to choose
that volunteering at a pregnancy center
and other activities like that, are for others.
I wasn’t sure that I was equipped
to deal with the Pro Life issues.
My introduction was more than thirty years ago
at a meeting of More Life,
the student Pro Life group at Thomas More College.
I checked out one of their meetings
and decided that it was not for me at that time,
but that it was a fine cause for the students to pursue.
I understood and agreed with the Church’s teachings,
but I wasn’t ready to take the plunge.
It seemed to be an uphill battle
that I didn’t want to engage in.
0That all changed when I went on my first march in Washington.
I have found that working in the Pro Life arena
is so much more than marching in Washington
or at the abortion clinic.
If you are not sure whether God is calling you
to become more active in Pro Life work, parish or beyond,
you have taken the first step by being here this evening.
God will keep after you,
but probably not in the form of that big fish.
And, Oh, don’t we wish that our prophetic efforts
to convert the Pro Choice environment around us
would be as quickly successful as Jonah’s efforts were
in converting the Ninevites.
Ours, in the Pro Life Movement, is a much slower conversion.
While Jonah did not expect success in his prophetic work,
many, in the early Pro Life days,
may have expected a quick reversal
of the Roe vs Wade decision.
After all, we have a very clear message – the sanctity of life.
Ultimately, our success is assured, there is no doubt.
But, the opposition is strong and defiant,
even from some who profess to be Catholics.
Yet, we must have faith that we will succeed,
and know that it will be on God’s plan and not ours.
And let us not forget that what we do here this evening,
that the power of our prayer
is so very important in our role in God’s plan.
Lastly, whatever we do we must do it in light of God’s mercy
not envious that God’s mercy is for all, us and the opposition.
God’s mercy comes from God’s infinite love for all.
Whatever we do we must do it in love and mercy.
First, in love for all human life from conception to natural death,
but also in love and mercy for all who support abortion,
euthanasia and capital punishment,
in love and mercy for the victims of abortion,
men, women and children,
in love and mercy for those medical personnel
who have cooperated in performing an abortion,
in love and mercy for those who have assisted suicide,
and in love and mercy for those
who have carried out the death penalty.
All that we do must be done in charity,
especially charity for all who disagree with us.
That may be the most important part of our ministry,
for how we treat others speaks volumes.
Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi,
who is known for his concern for all life,
especially his concerns for the quality of life of the poor.
There a is a story told about St. Francis
that I’m sure many of you have heard it,
but it bears repeating for everyone.
St. Francis told a companion that he was going out to preach
and he invited the companion to come along.
They went among the poor ministering to their needs.
When they had finished their work of the day,
the companion asked St. Francis
about the fact that during their day together
he had not heard Francis mention scripture once
or give any discourse on some theological topic.
Where was the preaching? asked the companion.
Francis’ answer was, “Preach always, use words when necessary.”
May we always preach the Pro Life message
in all that we say and in all that we do.