What is the message we should glean from the very familiar tale of the prophet Jonah? God loves and cares for everyone in the world and he wants everyone to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth because all are meant to be his children forever.
Instead, Jonah was convinced that only the Israelites, the chosen people of God, were to be saved because only they were the objects of God’s care and love. So, as the story goes, he was dead set against even entertaining the idea of preaching repentance to Israel’s sworn enemies, the Ninevites. After being spewed out of the fish’s mouth on the shore in front of Nineveh, he was shocked to realize how God could touch the heart of Nineveh’s inhabitants and, therefore, spare them as they repented. The moral of the story is about God’s infinite love and care for all peoples and for all nations, despite the many restrictions we might put in place so that we consider ourselves a cut above the rest and more deserving of divine favors.
This concept of a God so magnanimous and so generous in his loving care that no one can claim the monopoly of his favors and blessings, is extremely important as we try to benefit from the readings for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. They teach us how to live in the presence of God and with the assurance of his protection and guidance while bearing fruits of loving service, creativity, solidarity, cooperation, and while keeping ourselves on an even keel and enjoying a sense of general wellbeing.
Life is such that, occasionally, we feel tossed about by events that are too big for us to handle while keeping our composure. At times, we “poison” our days and nights with uncontrollable, mostly irrational worries and we sense that our faith in God is melting away. Thus, St. Paul (1 Corinthians 7:29-31) attempts to redirect our focus on God who can guarantee us the strongest foundation. He invites us to realize that, with each passing day, we get closer and closer to the Day of the Lord, the day in which we, one by one, will meet God face to face in death. Hence, there is no time to waste in idle pursuits; but also, no time to spoil worrying needlessly, allowing anxiety and fears to paralyze us and keep us from being productive in doing God’s will around the clock.
This is attained by learning to let “holy indifference” guide us.
Holy indifference has nothing to do with being aloof or caring only about us while ignoring everybody else.
Holy indifference is a most precious gift God desires to give us. It entails the living out, viscerally, of the serenity prayer.
“O Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change those things that I can change, and the wisdom to know the difference between the former and the latter.”
St. Paul expresses roughly the same concept in a different way: to be married or single, to be rejoicing or grieving, to be in want or surrounded by plenty, should leave us still feel serene and untroubled because we would have God as our protector and guide. We would just stay the course of our life focusing on the things that we can contribute to make better, while surrendering control of the rest over to God.
Look also at the first four disciples (Mark 1:14-20) they did something admirable: they left everything to follow Jesus. However, let us dig a little below the surface and wonder: How did their families manage without those able bodies to man the boats and operate the fishing equipment? And how did the first disciples manage to work for Jesus and the Kingdom while thinking and worrying about the families they had left behind?
It was done through holy indifference: an applied and lived out prayer of serenity, and concrete trust in God as their firm foundation. That is how.
For a true believer there is no other explanation, and no other way. In conclusion, it is time for us to realize and to believe, with Jonah, that God loves, cares, and wants to save every single one of those who call out to him in sincerity of heart. Today, we learn not to be petty and not to expect him to take care only of us; we rejoice rather that he cares for us and for everybody else.
May he be praised and glorified and thanked forever and ever. Amen