Reflection for Wednesday, February 28, 2007: 1st week in Lent.

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O'Reilly, Daniel Patrick
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Today's scriptures are about repentance and God's love and compassion. In the book of Jonah, God tells Jonah (a second time) to go to the city of Nineveh (which Jonah despises). There Jonah preaches to the people that God is going to destroy them for their wicked ways. And the people, from the king on down, repent and fast, asking for God's forgiveness. The psalmist offers a contrite and humble heart to the Lord. Asking the Lord to "Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me." In Luke, Jesus is frustrated with the people. Christ warns of God's judgment. The people want a magic show. Jesus says, "Here I am. I am greater than Solomon or Jonah." The Son of God is standing right in front of them. The people don't see him. The people want a sign.||I recently read an exchange between Sam Harris and a young, Christian gentleman. Mr. Harris stated that he had written down a 30 digit number and hidden it in his desk. He wanted the Christian gentleman to pray to God, learn what the number was, relate the number to Mr. Harris and, if it was correct, then Sam would believe in God. The exchange made me angry and sad. It was mocking and lacking in respect. Sam Harris is the author of Letter to a Christian Nation. Sam, along with Richard Dawkins, the author of The God Delusion, is currently on the bestseller list with books that ridicule believers and view religion as the root of all evil. These guys are about as subtle as a hand grenade. There once was a time when identifying yourself as an atheist was a badge of courage. You were an intellectual, an individual, bucking the system and running the risk of being burned at the stake. Nowadays it usually means you are simply intellectually lazy. You don't care or don't want to ask questions about the existence of God or the purpose of life. And your criticism of religion, instead of getting you burned at the stake, gets you on the New York Times best seller list. It's not that I don't know any other atheists. There are several in my family. It's just that I've never met an atheist who is so in-your-face about faith or one who blames all the world's ills on religion. Most atheists I have known may have viewed me as wrong or misguided, but they treated me with tolerance and respect. I viewed them as missing a wonderful gift in life. I figured they weren't asking the right questions about God, life, meaning or purpose and felt I should pray for them.|I love the book of Jonah. First, it's very short. Second, there are more life lessons in this book than you can shake a stick at. And Jonah has one for me. Jonah hates the Ninevites. He absolutely despises them. He gives them God's message. They repent and God spares them. And Jonah is furious. Why in the world would God spare Nineveh? These people are horrible. Why would God show love or compassion to them? And the Lord lets Jonah know that even though the Ninevites don't know about God, he still cares for them. Kind of an amazing message.|There are so many people who do not know Christ. Instead of being angry with them, I should be praying for them. I should be an ambassador for Christ. I should be modeling Christ's love. Christ makes it quite clear that when he says to love our neighbor, he is not just saying love people who believe in Jesus. We are to love people who do not know Christ. Sometimes that may not be easy. My prayer today is for guidance, tolerance and love for those who have not yet met Christ.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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