Our bible sharing group watched Father Barron’s conversion video series of Jonah a few days ago. After that we had a small sharing including the kids as young as my son Cedric (7) and my eldest Charlotte (15). Among our friends and us we had 8 children and 6 adults. At first I thought it was just another seven steps bible sharing process ; a little staid and sterile but this video sharing series seem to have a life of its own. The Holy Spirit definitely must be working overtime that evening. The little children were so enraptured in the sharing and they asked so many wise questions like “Why would Jonah be angry with God after God has relented and not punished Nineveh?” .Another one: ” Why must we answer to God’s calling? Can we run away from God?”
Father Barron’s message and interpretation of the story of Jonah can be summarised into two points
– We are all SUMMONED people. We are all CALLED by God and unlike in the context of modern living whereby the secular world asks us to be masters of our lives and take charge of the future. Fr Barron said these concepts are not biblical. We are first and foremost CALLED by God to do his Will and we are MADE for a purpose. ( The examples he cited were Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Peter, Paul etc)
– Secondly he said the person , our being is NEVER detached from our PURPOSE . We exist to serve a PURPOSE . We are called to fulfil this PURPOSE which in the story Jonah showed that even he goes to Tarshish (Tarshish according to Fr Barron is the equivalent of Timbuktu for us today) God will look for him. Psalm 139 was quoted and God manifested in the highest heaven as well as depths of Sheol.
Dan Shutte’s beautiful rendition of the Psalm 139 ” you are near” summarised this also so succintly
The link is here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=SG&hl=en-GB&v=Bsc-T5edJrU
One of the reflection questions that evening was
Jonah goes to Tarshish to avoid answering to God’s call: that is, as far away as possible. When you reflect on your life, what lengths have you sometimes gone to in order to avoid answering God’s call? What has moved you to return?
In reflecting on my life, I myself have gone to my Tarshish to avoid God calling me to minister to his people and just indulge in my personal comfort and life. I have enjoyed many years of a good and stable life in the corporate and its perks, but in recent years, God has called me out of this environment to go out to serve his people in terms of financial planning and assistance. Now God is calling me again in a new direction , and, empowered with new energy and skills, I am confident that after all the wandering around in my own Tarshish and my wilderness, like the Israelites (thankfully not 40 years, more like 4 years) I am ready to answer His call to minister to his people in another area. This opportunity / exposure for me to go outside corporate for several years indeed has broadened my perspectives about what is outside there; or more importantly WHO is outside there. It reminded me of my formative years of studies whereby due to my circumstances, I was in a privileged group of schools and friends and had no idea what the rest of the world are doing, struggling and living. But God continues to send messengers like prophets to guide me and show me the world is the oyster. I was living in a cocoon, ivory tower and a greenhouse for a long time… God is one of surprises and miracles. He never fails , only we do . Only we who are the men (women) of little faith will continue to fail him and make him grieve. But He continues to receive us and forgives us unconditionally…I pray I will always be able to know my Tarshish so that I will NOT run towards it but move in the opposite direction and run and gallop towards the source of all LIGHT and all LOVE.