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The Ways Of The Lord Are Not Our Ways

Posted on:January 26th, 2018

HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME YEAR B

SCRIPTURE READING:

  1. Jonah 3:1-5.10

Ps. 25:4-5ab.6.7bc.8-9 (R. 4a)

  1. 2 1 Cor. 7:29-31; Accl; Mt. 1:15.
  2. Gospel Mt. 1:14-20.

Preamble:

Lord, make me know your ways.

May your word direct me to your paths.

Make me walk in your truth, and teach me to follow you always.

Oh Holy Spirit inspire in me and incline me to your ways. Amen.

THEME: THE WAYS OF THE LORD ARE NOT OUR WAYS

Sometimes it is difficult to understand the ways of the Lord. Sometimes it might be very tiring and tasking. It requires attentiveness and willingness to be by the Lord despite the challenges. It can make you cry yet it is always for the best. It is always for the good of the people of God.

I am most certain that when God appointed Jonah to go to the people of Nineveh, he didn’t find it funny. He was reluctant for several reason namely;

  1. The Mission: for him he didn’t understand the mission even though it was spelt out to him that the purpose was for the salvation of the people. He wasn’t seeing the mission, he was seeing the obstacle. The obstacle was he knew God wouldn’t want to do as he threatened on the basis that they repent. This made him reluctant because he didn’t want to sound stupid and for him he didn’t want it to be a meaningless endeavour.

The truth is that with God and in God there is nothing like meaninglessness because he draws great meaning from even the most insignificant things of Life. As human Jonah concluded the case of the people but God saw a window of opportunity for the salvation. A warning would suffice to change them. But Jonah hesitated.

  1. Ran away from the Mission: once chosen, no one can run away from the mission placed on your shoulders once chosen. It is like a tag following you everywhere you go. You may not like it, you may be uncomfortable with it, the people around you may be uncomfortable with it and may not understand it because the mission is huge and unexplainable in human words but God is always very okay with that because he knows the one chosen can deliver on that job. God knows what he has placed in the one chosen. But there was an obstacle, the obstacles on his path was that he refused to go on that mission. Not that he hadn’t the gift but that the people wouldn’t repent and that he knew God would relent in his anger so what was the need going on that mission.
  2. Delivered from the belle of the Whale: so he decided to run away. He rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; he paid the fare, and went on board away from the presence of the Lord. You know what? God followed him-he said to himself I will run away from the Lord but the Lord said you cannot run away from me because my eyes are everywhere and I am everywhere.

The Lord sent a storm which threatened the lives of everyone on board, they cast lot and it fell on him, he said throw me into the sea so that others might be saved. As soon as he was thrown into the sea, calmness returned to the ship.

God had arranged for a big whale to take him to the shores of Nineveh. Jonah stayed in the belle of the whale for three days. This is very symbolic on the following grounds.

  1. The three days symbolised that Jonah actually died in the belly of the whale. This death simply means dying to himself and agreeing to go on that mission. It wasn’t a punishment for Jonah but salvation. Salvation in the sense that on the one hand, the one who is sent on mission must be saved from the evil he would preach against and on the other hand that no one is an outright outcast to the Lord. There is always a remedy for the most sinful and stubborn of persons.

In biblical tradition, the sea is seen as a place of elements hostile to man-things that only God can control. It is likened to Sheol, the domain of death from which none can return.

But God is greater than any created reality so the experience of Jonah in the belly of the whale also symbolised the death of Jesus of course death had no power over Jesus. Sheol the kingdom of death could hold Christ in its grip for more than three days. After the third day, Christ rose from the dead to show forth that God is mightier than death.

Jonah staying in the belly of the whale also signified that God who allowed him to stay in the belly of the whale for three days would not allow Jonah die in there but had plans to restore him, to save him and to take him on that mission. This was the deliberate plan of the Lord.

  1. The role of the water in the Jonah story signifies the waters of Baptism. The Christian is immersed, buried, in the water of Baptism and reborn to a new form of life in Christ: “To enter into perfect life, we must imitate the example of Christ, and not only the examples of meekness, patience and humility that he gave us in life, but also the example of his death. We re-live his death in our lives by being buried with him in baptism.”

The waters of baptism purify us and remove everything of the past especially original sin. So the waters of the sea purified Jonah and made him feet for the mission. It purged him of the disobedience to go on that mission. Baptism in a mysterious way strips the body of its past sins.

  1. Jonah prayed from the belly of the whale: the prayer of Jonah was a prayer of thanksgiving-a thanksgiving psalm. He prayed and thanked God for having saved him from death, a promise to offer sacrifice and to keep one’s vows. The result to that prayer was that the Lord heard his prayer from the belly of the whale and the whale spat him out on dry land.
  1. Brought to the shore of Nineveh: that dry land was the shores of Nineveh. Jonah obeyed the commandments of the Lord and became the herald of salvation to all Ninevites, including those of today who live under the threat of death. Rejoicing in the mercy of God, Jonah did not want to see God’s justice and punishment carried out on the sinful so he obediently went on that mission.
  2. Anointing for the mission: haven received the mercy of the Lord and made a decision to follow the Lord’s commands. He received the grace for the mission. This is because the success of his mission is assured not because it depends on Jonah but on the Lord who is the giver of every mission. Scripture says in Sirach 10:5 says, the success of any official is in the lord’s hands. The Lord is the source of the honour given to any official.

It would ordinary take 3 days to cross Nineveh, but Jonah went on only days’ journey and the people got converted. Grace was working. Anointing for that assignment was in place and it was very effective.

Dear friends, there is no mission that the Lord gives that is not tailored, guided and empowered by the Lord. Once it is a mission from the Lord, the presence of the Lord will always go with you.

So dear friends, it’s a New Year with lots of promises and new beginnings, let us rely on the help of the Lord to guide us in all we do. Let us seek his face before we embark on any project or assignment. Let us consult him and ask him for the grace, strength, peace and serenity as you embark on a new mission and a new assignment.

The psalmist of today concludes it when it says-Lord, make me know your ways. This should be our prayers every day, every time and every minute. There are ways we consider right for us that is not at rights with God. There are situations we want for ourselves but God wants it the other way because he is an intentional God and whatever he does works for our God.

The only way to peace in this our world filled with so much confusion is to ask for the Lord’s direction. Seek his face and believe in his promises and you will be firmly established. We cannot live our lives as though God were not real. God is real and he who follows the Lord will always find fulfilment in all that he does.

I pray that God’s guidance and presence may follow us as we go and let us forth to do his will all the days of our lives, we ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.