Prayer for the sick

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Jonah 1, 1-2,1.11

The word of Yahweh was addressed to Jonah son of Amittai:

'Up!' he said, 'Go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim to them that their wickedness has forced itself upon me.'

Jonah set about running away from Yahweh, and going to Tarshish. He went down to Jaffa and found a ship bound for Tarshish; he paid his fare and boarded it, to go with them to Tarshish, to get away from Yahweh.

But Yahweh threw a hurricane at 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, had lain down in the hold and was fast asleep,

when the boatswain went up to 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 to blame for bringing us this bad luck.' So they cast lots, and the lot pointed 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 Yahweh, God of Heaven, who made both sea and dry land.'

The sailors were seized with terror at this and said, 'Why ever did you do this?' since they knew that he was trying to escape from Yahweh, because he had told them so.

They then said, 'What are we to do with you, to make the sea calm down for us?' For the sea was growing rougher and rougher.

He replied, 'Take me and throw me into the sea, and then it will calm down for you. I know it is my fault that this great storm has struck you.'

The sailors rowed hard in an effort to reach the shore, but in vain, since the sea was growing rougher and rougher.

So at last they called on Yahweh and said, 'O, Yahweh, do not let us perish for the sake of this man's life, and do not hold us responsible for causing an innocent man's death; for you, Yahweh, have acted as you saw fit.'

And taking hold of Jonah they threw him into the sea; and the sea stopped raging.

At this, the men were seized with dread of Yahweh; they offered a sacrifice to Yahweh and made vows to him.

Now Yahweh ordained that a great fish should swallow Jonah; and Jonah remained in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights.

Yahweh spoke to the fish, which then vomited Jonah onto the dry land.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The words that God spoke to Jonah must have sounded paradoxical. How could he go to Nineveh, a city that seemed immense to him, the capital of the great and powerful Assyrian empire that had destroyed the kingdom of Israel in 721 B.C. and deported many of its inhabitants How could those bitter enemies of Israel listen to his words The prophet has no doubts: those enemies are so violent that they could never listen to his poor preaching. In the end, Jonah has good reason to flee from God’s command and go as far away from Nineveh as possible. How different from Abraham, who immediately obeyed God’s call, even if he had not understood everything and had no idea what awaited him. Jonah understands the call but is afraid and runs away. But his flight turns into a tragedy for him and for the unlucky sailors of that ship, who paradoxically invoke the Lord whom they did not know and from whom he was fleeing. Jonah’s problem was to go beyond the boundaries to which he was accustomed, out of the environment that was familiar to him, and out of the territory that he might have known by heart. God’s call was to go further. We could read Jonah’s call as something addressed to us, too, just as Pope Francis urges us to go into the geographic and existential peripheries of the great cities of our time. How can we not think of our fear of going towards a complex world of which we understand very little Indeed, we are very familiar with Jonah’s resistance. And we certainly can understand his fear. But this fear not only closes us up in our horizons, it also blocks - and this is a tragedy - the path of the Word of God. And the proclamation of the Gospel risks being kept prisoner of our world, our group, our ethnicity, our people. Jonah finally accepts God’s invitation to go into the great city. Not only does he avoid being shipwrecked, swallowed up by the strength of evil, but he permits the Word of God to work and change the great city of Nineveh. It is an example for us all. The Lord’s call to go out into the periphery is made to us all.