Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
Discipleship.  Pretty easy to pick a theme in today’s readings.  Jonah, Peter, Andrew, James and John, all great examples of disciples, people who followed God, went where He sent them.  People who truly spread the Good News.  Look at Jonah and the great success we heard about in that first reading.  Nineveh was a huge city, it took three days to walk through it.  About the same time it takes to go from the West Gate to the East Gate!  Our reading tells us that Jonah had spent only one day in the city preaching and everyone believed in God and repented.  What a preacher!  Then we see the first four fishermen that were called to be disciples and the Gospel tells us they immediately dropped everything, left their possessions, livelihood, family and followed Jesus.  What disciples!
We see examples like this and have to think what poor disciples we are.  What nets did we leave to follow Jesus?  Who did we ever convince to repent and turn their lives around?  But wait, we haven’t heard all of the story in these readings.  Where were Andrew, James and John when Christ suffered and died?  Hiding in fear.   We know where Peter was - in the courtyard denying that he even knew Christ.  When God asked Jonah to go to the Ninevites and preach repentance, instead he got on a ship headed in the opposite direction.  Why?  Because the Ninevites were bitter enemies of the Jews and Jonah was afraid that if they listened to his preaching and repented then God would spare them and that was the last thing he wanted. We know what happens next, the storm at sea, Jonah gets thrown overboard, the whale swallows him and spits him up on the shore by Nineveh as if to say, “Now will you please do as I asked you and preach to the Ninevites whom I happen to love.”  Doesn’t sound like the perfect disciple now!  And the story doesn’t end there.  After Nineveh is converted, Jonah is bitter and begins to sulk, he complains that just as he feared, God has been merciful to the Ninevites, his sworn enemies.

Aren’t we like that sometimes?  God is so generous in His love and we can be so stingy.  So often we focus on that first great commandment; love God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength that we forget about the second command which Christ says is equal to the first: love your neighbor.  To be a disciple is to be Christ-like and Christ loved everyone.  But loving your neighbor, your family member, can be so much harder than loving a God who is somewhere out there but unseen

To love your neighbor we have to be able to move from hostility to hospitality.  That was Jonah’s problem.  The Ninevites were his enemy.  It was easy to hate to them.  But to have them repent, to have to show hospitality to them, to welcome them into God’s family; that was not so easy.  The older son in the prodigal son story.  The father begs him to come into his house, but to celebrate, to show hospitality to his younger brother.  No way.  Easier to hate.  The first workers in the vineyard.  Be happy getting the same pay as those late comers.  No way.  Easier to hate them.  Those workers, the older son, Jonah, all missed the critical point that God’s house is huge and God wants everyone inside.  Over and over again God says, Everything I have is yours, come celebrate with me, come into my house!  But we are more worried about who might be in that house.  Not that husband that walked out on me.  Not the high school friend that had an abortion.  Not that illegal immigrant.  Not that criminal on death row.  Not that son or son-in-law that filed for divorce.  We can be so stingy with God’s love, we perfect disciples.  We have to learn to bring the reality of God’s unlimited mercy into our thoughts and actions and that means moving from hostility to hospitality

With everyone.