Daily Scriptures Reflection for 10/3/11

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Scripture: Lectionary # 461: Jonah 1:1-2:1.11. Jonah 2:2-3.3.4.5.8. Luke
10:25-37

Monday’s Readings

Both Jewish and Christian biblical commentaries agree on the following
statements about Jonah. It is primarily a narrative about this imaginary
person named Jonah and more satirical and humorous than the other prophetic
books among the Twelve Prophets.  One of the local Judaic scholars
mentioned it as a challenge to the Israelites to be open to other peoples
without, of course, accepting their particular beliefs.  It was hotly
discussed for its historicity about forty years ago, but scholarship today
realizes that the writer of this book is not creating a prophetic work as
such which would have more oracles within it.  One can see the humor in the
pouting of Jonah in the last chapter. But the biggest joke on Jonah is that
he becomes in this creative narrative the prophet with the most success
which causes him to be very despondent about the conversion of the people
of Nineveh.  Maybe he would have been different had he heard what Jesus
said, “He who is not against us is for us. So do not do them any harm as he
hinted to his apostles.

Jonah is somewhat like the two sons who say no to their father and then one
of them reluctantly changes his mind and says yes.  Jonah cannot escape the
plan of God nor does he comprehend the great mercy of God shown toward
people who are different from his own.

It is a lesson in forgiveness.  This dimension of each human person is hard
to come by. Some people never forget nor forgive and they remain bitter all
their lives not getting beyond their personal hurt.  Forgiveness is an
attitude and graced gift of God that resides in our hearts and cleanses our
memories of trying to get even or taking revenge on the one who has
offended us.

The Gospel lesson in Luke has us returning to the commandment of love of
God with all our heart, soul, and mind.  Here is where forgiveness lies.
The commandment of love of God is seen in the way we love each other
whether friend or foe.  This is a call of grace and also of revelation in
both testaments. Christians need to see the Bible as a whole and not
separate the lessons of the Old Testament from those of the New.  There is
no God of anger, wrath, etc. as we sometimes here Christians saying about
the Old Testament. The cultural dimension of the writers always is present
and the message of God is beyond what a literal understanding of the Bible
leads us to think about books like Jonah or other books where crushing the
enemy is mentioned.  To probe the depth of the Scriptures more than
literalism is necessary.  Both Jewish Mysticism and the Medieval Christian
interpretation of the Scriptures searched for the deeper spiritual meaning
through four different ways of reading the texts: literal, allegorical,
moral, and analogical or mystical reading takes place in the heart and is
not pure study of texts nor fundamentalism.

Forgiveness is a grace that overcomes our hardness of heart.  We should
never carry our bad experiences of the past into making us bitter. As we
age with wisdom the heart needs to be opened to the graces of forgiving and
forgetting. Amen.

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