In case you were wondering, here are pictures of the covers of the two meditation books I’ve been reading and quoting.
(Feast of Saint John of God)
Today’s readings seem to be about Jonah, not only the meditations and discipleship books, but in the daily prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours.
“…Jonah said to God: Lord, this is a message that I cannot deliver, for I know that ‘you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in mercy, and that you repent of evil’ and are always ready to forgive men their iniquities (Jonah 4:2). You will once again pardon this unbelieving city [Nineveh]. They will no longer listen to those who speak in your name. In vain will we make known the rigor of your judgments to Judah and Israel. your ease and indulgence will harden men in their evil.” (Note 1)
The funny part of this is twofold — first the Prophet Jonah was questioning God, essentially calling him out and accusing him of poor judgment. This isn’t unheard of, especially in the Old Testament, but…. Second, Jonah was worried about the evil nature of men — if God kept forgiving them so easily, then they would harden their hearts to God’s word and his prophets and just do evil. I think we see a lot of that in modern society. I don’t know if I’d say Jonah’s lament to God was prescient, but perhaps in the totality of the bible it serves to remind us God is always ready to forgive us, despite Jonah’s warnings. God does, after all, steer the evil of men towards good (Cf CCC 312).
While this portion of Jonah was not prescient, Bossuet does point out that Jonah was prescient in another way:
“The rest is explained by the Savior himself: ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’ (Matt. 12:39-40).” (Note 2)
“Those surrounding Jesus were enthralled with miraculous healing and not nearly so immersed in the call to spiritual conversion that Jesus taught. Jesus is irritated that they only wanted quick fixes and instant healing. They didn’t want to hear about he slow process of changing their hearts. So he said they would only receive the ‘sign of Jonah,’ the sign of conversion. I could also be like those people who eagerly sought ‘signs’. I want my life to go well, to not have any glitches or difficulties. That is why I need constantly to ask myself: Do I pray more intently and eagerly for my life to be problem-free than I do for my ability to forgive someone who has wronged me?” (Note 3)
The last line is probably one of the most fitting, and I find myself in the quandary, too. Father Peter drives this very point home a lot, and it hearkens back to yesterday’s post on the “Lord’s Prayer.” Personally, I have a lot of work left to do here.
This also reflects back on the article I posted yesterday for further reading (“Lent, Suffering, and the Death that Brings Life”), specifically on the points of participation with the Cross. (I won’t delve into the divergence between Protestant Theology and Catholic Theology on imputation vs participation, but if you’re interested, you can read about it here.) The article I linked yesterday sums up participation, and thus the problem with what the people are seeking from Jesus, and His concern, thusly:
“Christ came to earth and died on the cross, not so that we could avoid death and suffering, but so that he could transform the inevitability of death and suffering from the inside out. By communion with him, by participation in his cross, we could receive eternal life.” (Note 4)
“Put another way, Christ did not suffer and die so that we do not have to — he suffered and died so that our suffering and death could be transubstantiated into a means of life. He embraced the cross not to keep us from it, but so that our crosses could be changed from instruments of death into healing remedies that bring life.
“As baptized Christians, we are members of the body of Christ. We are incorporated into him and we live in communion with him. This communion means that we share in his life — not by making some act of intellectual assent, but by living his life after him. And living his life after him requires carrying the cross after him and sharing in his death. The cross is the price of eternal life.
“This is the meaning of Jesus when he said, ‘Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.’” (Note 5)
I could ramble on and make many more points here, but I don’t really think I need to. I think I have the gist of this in my mind, and hopefully it will stay there (doubtful with a sick toddler, but that is a cross I will carry). I will close this post out with a quote from the same article because it fits so nicely.
“Suffering is inevitable. To varying degrees, we will all suffer. And with a similar certainty, we will all die. It could be said that a cross lies at the heart of human existence. But the cross need not be a fate to be feared. Our Lord trampled down death by death. In the greatest paradox of all, he changed death into a means of life. What was once our doom is now our salvation. … This Lent, let us not fear or flee the cross, but carry it with love and with hope, as the means not of death but of eternal life.” (Note 6)
1. Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 29.
2. Bossuet, Meditations, 32.
3. Joyce Rupp, “The Sign of Jonah” In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 8.
4. Sam Guzman, “Lent, Suffering, and the Death the Brings Life,” The Catholic Gentleman (March 5, 2017), at http://www.catholicgentleman.net/2017/03/lent-suffering-and-the-death-that-brings-life/.
5. Guzman, “Lent” at http://www.catholicgentleman.net/2017/03/lent-suffering-and-the-death-that-brings-life/.
6. Guzman, “Lent” at http://www.catholicgentleman.net/2017/03/lent-suffering-and-the-death-that-brings-life/.