9 October, Monday – On The Road That Leads Away From God

Oct 9 – Memorial for Sts. Denis, Bishop, and Companions, Martyrs; Memorial for St. John Leonardi, Priest

Denis (d. 258) was a missionary to Paris, and its first bishop. His success roused the ire of local pagans, and he was imprisoned by the Roman governor. He was martyred in the persecutions of Valerius with Sts. Eleutherius and Rusticus. Legends have grown up around his torture and death including one that has his body carrying his severed head some distance from his execution site. St. Genevieve built a basilica over his grave. His feast was added to the Roman calendar in 1568 by Pope St. Pius V, though it has been celebrated since 800.

– Patron Saint Index

John Leonardi (1541–1609) was the founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca. He was born in Lucca, Tuscany in 1541 and ordained a priest in 1572. He first dedicated himself to the Christian formation of young people in his parish of Lucca. Then he founded the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine.

In 1574, he founded a community charged to deepen faith and devotion; this foundation occurred as part of the movement known as the Counter-Reformation. He worked with this community to spread the devotion to the Virgin Mary, to the Forty Hours and to frequent Communion.

This foundation received approval from Pope Paul V in 1614. He took his work to Rome where he became friends with St. Philip Neri who held him in high regard for his qualities of firmness and judgement and entrusted him to delicate works such as the reform of the Benedictan congregation of Montevergine.

He then founded with J. Vives the seminary of the Propagation of the Faith. He died in 1609, dedicating himself to his brothers suffering from the influenza epidemic that was raging in Rome at that time.

The final Rule of his community was published in 1851. Two houses of the Clerks of the Mother of God were opened when he died; three others were opened during the 17th century. He was beatified in 1861 and canonised in 1938.

– Patron Saint Index, Wikipedia

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Jonah 1:1-2:1, 11

The word of the Lord was addressed to Jonah son of Amittai:

‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and inform them that their wickedness has become known to me.’ Jonah decided to run away from the Lord, and to go to Tarshish. He went down to Joppa and found a ship bound for Tarshish; he paid his fare and went aboard, to go with them to Tarshish, to get away from the Lord. But the Lord unleashed a violent wind on the sea, and there was such a great storm at sea that the ship threatened to break up. The sailors took fright, and each of them called on his own god, and to lighten the ship they threw the cargo overboard. Jonah, however, had gone below and lain down in the hold and fallen fast asleep. The boatswain came upon him and said, ‘What do you mean by sleeping? Get up! Call on your god! Perhaps he will spare us a thought, and not leave us to die.’ Then they said to each other, ‘Come on, let us draw lots to find out who is responsible for bringing this evil on us.’ So they cast lots, and the lot fell to Jonah. Then they said to him, ‘Tell us, what is your business? Where do you come from? What is your country? What is your nationality?’ He replied, ‘I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.’ The sailors were seized with terror at this and said, ‘What have you done?’ They knew that he was trying to escape from the Lord, because he had told them so. They then said, ‘What are we to do with you, to make the sea grow calm for us?’ For the sea was growing rougher and rougher. He replied, ‘Take me and throw me into the sea, and then it will grow calm for you. For I can see it is my fault this violent storm has happened to you.’ The sailors rowed hard in an effort to reach the shore, but in vain, since the sea grew still rougher for them. They then called on the Lord and said, ‘O the Lord, do not let us perish for taking this man’s life; do not hold us guilty of innocent blood; for you, the Lord, have acted as you have thought right.’ And taking hold of Jonah they threw him into the sea; and the sea grew calm again. At this the men were seized with dread of the Lord; they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

The Lord had arranged that a great fish should be there to swallow Jonah; and Jonah remained in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. The Lord spoke to the fish, which then vomited Jonah on to the shore.

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Luke 10:25-37

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus ‘do this and life is yours.’

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands‘ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’

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But Jonah made ready to flee to Tarshish away from the Lord

The concept of sin causing us to run away from God has been evident since Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden. In today’s readings, we see people from different walks of life running from God – Jonah fleeing to Tarshish to get away from the Lord; the Priest who crossed to the other side of the street rather than confront the man lying half-dead in front of him; the Levite who did the same; the symbol of the sinner, the man on the road who had left the safety of Jerusalem for the dysfunction of Jericho, only to be robbed by vagabonds.

So why do we turn from God? And how do we end up on the road that leads away from Him in the first place? At the heart of our flight is the knowledge that we have fallen short. It is easier to walk away than to confront our shortcomings. In Jonah’s case, it was because he did not want to see God’s mercy extend to the Assyrians. In the time of Jonah, Nineveh was the capital of Assyria. The Assyrians were a wicked, ruthless people, sworn enemies of the Jews of Israel. The idea of having to preach repentance to them was too much for Jonah. Jonah felt that the Assyrians were undeserving of God’s forgiveness. He didn’t care if he was being unforgiving, that his hard heartedness was causing him to sin. What about the Priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan? Why were they on the road leading away from God? The Priest and the Levite in the parable are symbolic of the religious institutions of that time, who Jesus felt, had been tarnished by sin. Religion is depicted in the Parable of the Samaritan, as having no power to save and redeem; rather Religion is on the same road leading away from God.

Who else is on the road leading away from God? We see Jesus, in the guise of the Good Samaritan, filled with compassion and love for the fallen sinner. The Son himself, is on the road leading away from God, having been sent to seek, to save and redeem all who have lost their way. No matter how far we have fallen from Him, God finds us and offers us the chance to restore ourselves through Jesus Christ. The great truth at the heart of the Bible is God’s faith in us, His love for us, despite ourselves. The prophet Jeremiah sums it up beautifully – “‘Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do I not fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord’” (Jeremiah 23:24) Even on the road leading away from Him, there waits God, ready to meet us in our sin. What a picture of grace and forgiveness that is!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for those who are true life Samaritans, who seek, who heal, who redeem and restore all who have been stripped of their dignity through sin.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for all the times God has found us and saved us while we languished on the road, bowed down by sin.

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