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by davesandel on February 29th, 2012

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Luke 11:29, 32

Jesus said, “This generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah … There is something greater than Jonah here.”

In his journal,The Sign of Jonas, Thomas Merton wrote that this “sign” which Jesus speaks of – the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection – is “burned into the roots of our being.”  Our path moves us all through death.  That is unavoidable.  What Merton called my “false self” dies and my “true self” rises out of the ashes.  Perhaps this happens in the moment before I die physically, or it might come sooner.  But it happens.

Merton embraced this “sign” and described himself as one “traveling toward my destiny in the belly of a paradox.”  To die is to live.  But death is indeed all it’s cracked up to be.  Something in my soul needs to embrace it, because my body/mind/desires/senses all say “No!”

Like Jonah, Merton found himself “with an almost uncontrollable desire to go in the opposite direction.  God pointed one way and all my ‘ideals’ pointed in the other.”

It wasn’t Jonah that went to Nineveh.  It was God’s vehicle that took him there.  “It was when Jonas was traveling as fast as he could away from Nineveh that he was thrown overboard and swallowed by a whale who took him where God wanted him to go.”

Neither Jonah nor Merton apologized for their inadequate “ideals.”  “Even our mistakes are eloquent, more than we know.”  When I claim my ground, mistaken or not, I look up and see God’s correction, spout steaming above the water, insisting on being seen.  Not understood, perhaps, but seen.  It’s not so easy to turn away again.

Full of remorse and fear, Jonah asked his fellow sailors to throw him into the sea.  Finally, when there was no recourse, he chose to die.  And then, in the belly of God’s great fish, he could be born again.

Jonah was not yet finished with his “ideals.”  And God was not finished with Jonah. Jonah carried the Spirit of God into the midst of the Ninevites, and their hearts were torn open.  They turned from their wickedness toward God.  And Jonah hated them for it.

Jonah prayed, and God responded to these destructive emotions in his son.  In a burst of creative relationship under a small tree, God showed Jonah his selfishness and offered this prejudiced, very human Hebrew a glimpse into the generosity God extends to all his people.

It is a wonderful story, which Jesus brings to life first for the men and women of Israel and then for all of us, in all the nations, even unto the end of the world.

You know the heart of my thoughts, Lord, and will guide me into all truth.  That isn’t something I conclude; it’s something I believe.  And something I experience.  Thank you.

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