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Call to prayer

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Luke 11:29-30
As the crowds increased Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will be the Son of Man to this generation."

Jesus would like to inspire those around him to be more like him, to pursue God instead of pursuing health and wealth. He has little impact on most of those in the crowds. They want healing, they want food, they want him. He has become famous, or infamous, depending on whom you talk to. But he finds few "seekers."

In Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr writes about the sign of Jonah and its significance in the "search:"

I think Jesus' primary metaphor for the mystery of transformation is the sign of Jonah. As a good Jew, Jesus knew the graphic story. Jonah ran from God and was used by God almost in spite of himself. Jonah was swallowed by the whale and taken where he would rather not go. This was Jesus' metaphor for death and rebirth.

Think of all the other signs, apparitions, and miracles that religion looks for and seeks and even tries to create. But Jesus says it is an evil and adulterous generation that looks for these things. That's a pretty hard saying.

He says instead we must go inside the belly of the whale for a while. Then and only then will we be spit upon a new shore and understand our call. That's the only pattern Jesus promises us. . . .We seldom go freely into the belly of the beast. Unless we face a major disaster like the death of a friend or spouse or loss of a marriage or job, we usually will not go there.

As a culture, we have to be taught the language of descent. That is the great language of religion. It teaches us to enter willingly, trustingly into the dark periods of life. These dark periods are good teachers.

Fixing something doesn't usually transform us. We try to change events in order to avoid changing ourselves. We must learn to stay with the pain of life, without answers, without conclusions, and some days without meaning. That is the path, the perilous dark path of true prayer.

Lord, when I close my eyes to pray, let me see the dark walls of the whale. Let me see the outlines of the cross against the sky. Let me come to you with my hands outstretched, not to get anything from you but just to touch your robe.

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