Jon 1:1-2,11; Jon 2:3-5,8; Lk 10:25-37
Because this is only a memorial (at least it’s not an optional memorial), it has no readings assigned. In the womb like circle of the Holy Rosary, The Mother of God and Our Mother, has fashioned us in the mysteries of our redemption in Her Son, The Lord Jesus Christ. In his joys, lights, sorrows, and glorious moments of life with us in this world and into the glories of heaven, our eternal home, we have been welcomed and nourished in meditation and in prayer. Indeed, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary has from our mother’s womb has set us apart for a life of contemplation, and we are zealous for the bright light of God’s glory in us and among us. Indeed, we will come to know the LORD who probes us and knows us because we probe him and his mysteries in the depths of our hearts, day by day, and year after year.
The responsorial is not a psalm. It comes from the same text as the first reading, the book of the reluctant prophet Jonah. Few of us will ever spend three nights and three days in the belly of a fish, but most of us will need to pray as Jonah prayed. When we are in distress may we have the faith to call out to the LORD. Only faith will enable us to wait upon his faithful response. Even if we feel lost in our distress, even if we find ourselves in the midst of the nether world, even there the LORD will hear our voice crying out from the depths. Part of the pain of our exile is the distinct feeling that the Lord is somehow responsible, indeed, that he has cast us into the deep, into the heart of the terrifying sea and the flood waters envelope us. The breakers and billows of the mighty waters pass over us and overwhelm us. Indeed, at moments like this we feel banished forever from the sight of the LORD. We never expect to look again upon his holy temple; we feel cast out from the community of those who worship in his temple. It is from the depths of such prayer, when our souls faint within, that we hold onto the memory of the LORD and his compassion from of old. Only at such moments is our prayer purified and only then, does it reach the ear of the LORD in his holy temple. The reluctant prophet learned how to pray during his retreat in the belly of a fish. The Lord Jesus teaches us about how our prayer will make us compassionate even toward our enemies. As some wise person once said, “It’s hard to keep hating those for whom we pray daily.”
Jonah hated the citizens of Nineveh. He fled toward Tarshish, a city in the opposite direction. He had no desire to fulfill the word of the LORD that commanded him to preach against the wickedness of his enemies. He did not want them to repent and have a change of heart. Perhaps, the LORD would show the Ninevites mercy and spare their lives. Then, how would Jonah explain his preaching to his fellow Israelites? How could he go home after having helped the enemies of his country? It made no sense. The only thing that made sense was to flee far from the LORD and his mission. It didn’t take long for his plans to be thwarted by a stormy sea. At least the sea was obedient to the LORD, even if the prophet was not obedient. Even his pagan companions on the ship were horrified that he would disobey the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land. Even though the disobedient prophet told the seamen to cast him into the storm, they were afraid and did not obey the command of Jonah. Nevertheless, the sea swallowed him up into the belly of another obedient creature, a big fish. There, desperate and hopeless, the reluctant prophet Jonah learned to pray and to obey. Like his fellow exiles, Jonah hated the Ninevites. Like most of us, there are people for whom it would be hard for us to lift a prayer in charity much less a finger to help them in their desperation.
All good Jews hated Samaritans. Not all good Jews; the Lord Jesus did not hate Samaritans nor anyone who was his enemy. Jesus hates with a perfect hate; he hates sin but loves sinners. He came to die and rise for sinners. He entered into the pit of death so that all sinners might be saved. One of the scholars of the law wanted the Lord Jesus to qualify who was “the neighbor” about whom Jesus was teaching. The Lord responded with a parable in which we learn that the neighbor is anyone who needs our assistance. In this parable the hero is the Samaritan, and the shock is that there could even be a “good” Samaritan. It takes this kind of shock to wake us up to the human dignity of even our enemies. The parable had the same effect upon the Jewish audience of the Lord Jesus that three days in the belly of a fish had upon the reluctant prophet, Jonah. It is this Eucharist and the presence of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ that awakens us to the true dignity of being human. For through him, with him, and in him we come to know, love, and serve the LORD with all our heart, mind and soul, and we love our neighbor as our self.