6th October 2021
BEING INCLUSIVE RATHER THAN EXCLUSIVE
Jonah 4: 1‐11
Psalm 86: 3‐4, 5‐6, 9‐10
Luke 11: 1‐4
Some people are strong‐willed and very determined in their approach to life. You have probably met individuals who are quite obstinate in wanting everyone to do things their way. They come across as always being right in how they think. They can even become upset when God does not act according to their thinking. The key to being a good disciple of the Lord Jesus is to be willing to seek to do what God wills and be open to how God is acting in our own lives and the lives of the people around us. After all that is what we pray every time, we say the Lord’s Prayer. Jonah, true human that he is, becomes upset that God is so merciful with the Ninevites.
Jonah has preached the “doomsday” message. He does not want to look like a prophet whose words do not come true. He believes that God should punish the sinful non‐Jews. He really does not see the whole picture of the compassionate God Who wants to bring forgiveness and love to all who repent and turn towards the Almighty. Even after God provides for Jonah by shading him under the leaves of a fast‐growing plant, Jonah still misses the point of God’s desire to have all people come to a relationship with the Lord. Jonah does admit that God is known for the divine mercy, but believes it should only be for himself and the Chosen People (the Jews), not for heathens like the Ninevites.
In the Gospel, after spending time with His Father in prayer, Jesus is asked by His disciples to teach them how to pray. He shares with them a prayer in which they address God as “Father.” The key points are the same:
1. an invocation of God as Father
2. a seeking of the extension of God’s will and reign on earth 3. a prayer for daily sustenance
4. a plea for forgiveness based upon how we extend forgiveness to others.
5. a desire to be saved from the “test.”
It is so easy for us to get caught up in our own views of life. Sometimes, we, like Jonah, don’t want to do God’s will because we are afraid of the reaction we will get from people. Jonah first fled from God because he did not want to meet the fate of the prophets before him – being rejected and possibly murdered. When he finally is directed back to doing God’s will and announces God’s message, he is not persecuted but is listened to by the Ninevites. Then Jonah becomes furious because God sees the Ninevites repenting and God decides to turn back from the promised destruction. Jonah does not rejoice with God’s mercy and forgiveness because it puts him, the prophet, in the role of not being believable.
How often we fail to do what we know is right because we are concerned how people will respond to our actions! Then when we do God’s will, we become upset if God decides to treat people differently than we expect God to do. We cannot understand how God can show love and forgiveness to people who are obviously well‐known doers of evil, or at least who do not believe as we do. We are not willing to forgive those who have consciously caused us pain, whether they be terrorists, drunk drivers, or serial killers, or even someone who speaks negatively about us.
Jesus directs not only His disciples’ attention, but also ours, to how we should relate to God. We are invited to call God our loving and intimate “Daddy.” And if God is our Father, then we are brothers and sisters of each other. We are in relationship with all of God’s children, even those children who are not obedient to their loving Father. We must pray for the coming of the Reign of God, not according to our terms, but according to God’s will.
As we lift up this prayer to our Father, we need to pray for our daily sustenance. That means that we are concerned not only for the personal needs we have as individuals, but the needs of others. We are required to seek the fulfillment of other people’s day‐to‐day actual needs. Also included in this “ideal prayer” is the need to be forgiving as a requirement for our being forgiven by God. Finally, we must pray that we are not tested beyond our ability, and that with the grace of God, we will be able to withstand the test.
This prayer which Jesus taught His disciples (and us) leads away from selfishness to a sense of relationship with God and with others. It takes us away from being focused on “me” to focus on “us” and the other members of the family under God. Instead of being exclusive, it is inclusive. It should lead us to great praise of the God Whom we all can call