But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry (Jonah 4.4)

And when they received it, they grumbled’ (Matthew20.11)

THE RELUCTANT PROPHET Jonah has long inspired empathy in me. When I experienced, during teenage tramping years through Europe, what seemed clearly at the time  to be my “calling”, I wrestled and argued with God. I didn’t want to have anything to do with any “church”, let alone be priest in one. “Leave me alone, let me travel and experience your world,” was my response. Ha ha! The irony of it seems immense now. What “world” was I even talking about? God’s Creation, the current political world, the world projected by my child/man imagination and culturized beliefs, what world? Anyway, later when I read about Jonah trying to run in the opposite direction to God’s calling to Nineveh, I had no problem relating! The futility of trying to evade all responsibility was equally clear.

      In today’s reading, Jonah, like the disgruntled labourers in the Matthean parable, models our very human tendency to judge our lives or aspects of them in relation to other people’s lives as fair or unfair, just or unjust. We all, to a greater or lesser extent, give credence to our internal judgement schemes and structures of belief and morality. In Western culture, we have been brought up to do things to achieve “right” outcomes, privileges, rewards etc.  When we work hard, we expect to be paid accordingly; when we excel at something, we expect recognition, praise or at least some kind of notoriety or promotion. Conversely, we expect people who behave to our judgement badly or lazily to be punished and not rewarded. The Book of Jonah, Matthew’s Gospel, the entire Bible, Nature and our lives keep on coming back to us, hold up their mirrors to us and ask repeatedly, “Who are you to judge what is right and what is wrong? Have you eaten of ‘the tree of knowledge of good and evil’? Oh you have? So do you know the mind of God yet?”

       But, thank God, God is gracious, God is merciful. Let’s come to the stillness in us. We are work in progress. Great is the Lord and highly to be praised (Psalm 145).

~ by Fr Tim Ardouin on September 19, 2020.

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