- The Abbey of the Genesee - http://www.geneseeabbey.org -

October 11, 2017

Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO [1]

27th Wednesday of Ordinary Time
Jonah 4:1-11 Luke 11:1-4

As I began working on this reflection, I remembered of a song written by Joseph Wise in the late 60’s:

“Lord, teach us to pray, it’s been a long and cold December kind of day.”

Living in a world that is cloaked in darkness and living among people whose hearts have grown cold due to hatred and resentment, we need to learn how to pray. How are we supposed to pray in the face of countries trying to show off their military might? We are the children of God Who manifests His power in showing mercy. We are the disciples of Christ Who came into the world to show sinners the way home. When we see God extending mercy to repentant sinners, our hearts should overflow with joy and our voices echo praise and thanksgiving; but they don’t. Therein lies the problem.

“With our hearts and hands all busy in our private little wars,”

At times, we are more like Jonah. We want the doers of evil to be punished. Any talk of mercy is taken as clouding the issues of right and wrong rather than the initiation to conversion of heart. We are shocked by the countless criminal acts perpetrated against innocent victims and we hate and detest the perpetrators. Because we are created in the image and likeness of God, we expect God to react as we do, but He doesn’t.  Because we busy ourselves with our schemes, our sense of righteous outrage is shaken by God’s declaration: “I don’t want the sinner to die. I prefer that he turn from his wicked ways and live” (Ezek. 18:23). Sadly, we exert our efforts on our plans of retribution rather than of God’s plans for mercy and reconciliation. Contrary to our plans, God desires to see all things made new.

“We stand and watch each other now from separate shores.”

The more we withhold God’s mercy from others, the more our hearts grow hard and loveless. Like Jonah, we find a gourd plant to sit under while we watch the world to self-destruct. Like Jonah, we get upset when it doesn’t. This happens because we do not see ourselves as brothers and sisters, members of the family of God. In this fragile and broken world, we find it hard to believe God is our Loving Father. Isolated and abandoned, we stand in need of healing but don’t know where to find it. It is then that we see the wonders of God’s grace. In the depths of our weakness, God manifests His saving power. “The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. When we do not know what we ought to pray for, the Spirit Himself prays for us with groans too deep for words” (Rom. 8:26). When we don’t know our left hand from our right, the Holy Spirit gives expression to the longings of our hearts, drawing us close to the heart of God.

“Lord, teach us to pray.
We believe that we can find a better way.
We lose the way.
Teach us to pray.”