MORNING MEDITATION IN THE CHAPEL OF THE
Fleeing from God
Monday, 7 October 2013
(by L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly ed. in English, n.
41, 9 October 2013)
To hear the voice of God in one’s life, one needs to open his heart to
surprise. Otherwise, one can start “fleeing from God”. In fact, it happens that
Christians sometimes run away from God, while people who are “far away” are able
to hear him. This was the focus of the homily Pope Francis delivered on Monday
morning, 7 October at Santa Marta.
The Bishop of Rome used the story of Jonah as a paradigm in commenting on the
first reading (1:1-16; 2:2-11): “he had his entire life in order; he served the
Lord, perhaps he even prayed a great deal. He was a prophet, a good man and he
did much good”. Yet “he didn’t want to be disturbed in the way of life he had
chosen; when he heard the word of God he sought to escape. And he fled from
God”. Therefore, when “the Lord sent him to Ninevah, he boarded a ship to Spain.
He was fleeing from the Lord”.
In the end, the Pontiff explained, Jonah had already written his own story:
“I want to be like this, this and this, according to the commandments”. He did
not want to be disturbed. This is why he fled from God. The Pope warned that we,
too, can be tempted to flee. “We can run away from God,” he said, “as a
Christian, as a Catholic,” and even “as a priest, bishop or Pope”. We can all
flee from God. This is a daily temptation: not to listen to God, not to hear his
voice, not to hear his promptings, his invitation in our hearts”.
Although “we may make a direct getaway,” he also noted that “there are also
more subtle and sophisticated ways of fleeing from God”. The reference was to
the Gospel passage from St Luke (10:25-37) which tells of “a certain man, half
dead, who had been thrown into the street”. The Pope continued, referencing the
scriptures, “Now by chance a priest was going down that road. A good priest, in
his cassock: good, very good. He saw him and looked: I'll be late for Mass, and
he went on his way. He didn't hear the voice of God there”. It was, the Pope
explained, “different from Jonah’s escape, Jonah was clearly fleeing. Then a
Levite passed by, he saw [the man half dead] and perhaps he thought: If I take
care of him or go close to him, perhaps he is dead and tomorrow I’ll have to go
to the judge to give testimony, and so he passed by on the other side. He was
fleeing from the voice of God in that man”.
It is curious to note that only a man “who habitually fled from God, a
sinner”, the Samaritan, was the very one who “perceived the voice of God”. He
“drew near” to the man. “He bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then
he set him on his own beast. Oh how much time he lost: he brought him to an inn,
and took care of him. He lost the whole evening!”. In the meantime, the Bishop
of Rome noted, “the priest arrived in time for the Holy Mass and all the
faithful were content. The next day, the Levite had a peaceful day and spent it
just as he had planned” since he didn't have to go to the judge.
“And why”, the Holy Father asked, “did Jonah flee from God? Why did the
priest flee from God? Why did the Levite flee from God?”. Because “their hearts
were closed”, he answered. “When your heart is closed you cannot hear the voice
of God. Instead, it was a Samaritan on a journey “who saw” the wounded man and
“had compassion. His heart was opened, he had a human heart”. His humanity
enabled him to draw near.
“Jonah had a plan for his life: he wanted to write his own history well,
according to God’s ways. But he was the one writing it, the same with the
priest, the same with the Levite”. However, “this other sinner allowed God to
write the history of his life. He changed all his plans that evening” because
the Lord placed before him “this poor, wounded man who had been thrown out onto
I ask myself — the Pope continued — “and I also ask you: do we allow God to
write the history of our lives or do we want to write it? This speaks to us of
docility: are we docile to the Word of God? Yes, I want to be docile, but are
you able to listen to [his Word], to hear it? Are you able to find the Word of
God in the history of each day, or do your ideas so govern you that you do not
allow the Lord to surprise you and speak to you?”.
“I am sure,” the Pope concluded, “that all of us today are saying ... the Priest
and the Levite were selfish. It's true: the Samaritan, the sinner, did not flee
from God!”. And so I ask that the “the Lord grant that we may hear his voice
which says to us: Go and do likewise”.