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HOW TO BE A GOOD NEIGHBOUR

Father Francis's picture
Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

Jonah 1:1-2:1, 11 & Lk. 10:25-37

Jonah's sea voyage was a journey he would never forget. Caught in a violent storm, the crew blamed him for their misfortunes and threw him overboard, and he was swallowed by a whale. Yet none of this would have happened if he had done as God asked. He would not even have been on that ship.

God had asked him to go and preach to the people of Nineveh and persuade them to change their ways. Perhaps Jonah was afraid that the task was too difficult for him, or he may have felt inadequate or unworthy. All we know is that he ran away.

Are we, too, not inclined to run away from God. Sometimes like Jonah we know what He wants us to do, but it could involve sacrifice, inconvenience, discomfort or even pain. Naturally we are afraid and we run away from it. We are free to go, of course, but God may give us a sharp reminder of what He wants from us.

Jonah tried to avoid God's original instruction and so He had to use more dramatic tactics to gain his co-operation, unleashing a storm which prompted Jonah to put himself in God's hands, and the crew of the ship were converted.

God is a loving Father who often has to guide us and correct us. If we try to ignore Him, He usually has some other way of steering us back, because what He wants for us is only what is good for us. Any good parent will urge their child to do homework, eat properly and keep suitable company. At the time, the children may feel that they are being nagged and they may rebel against it, but later in life they are grateful for the wise advice and guidance their parents gave them.

God is always making demands of us. If we spend time with Him in prayer, He will make those demands very clear to us. Is He asking you to spend more time with your children? Does He want you to give up some sinful habit? Would He like you to be less selfish and more thoughtful of others, particularly at home? We can choose whether to meet God's demands or, like Jonah, to run away from them.

But the story of Jonah tells us that there is no point in running away! We could save ourselves a lot of trouble if we simply let God take over our lives. By saying 'Yes' to God we can be sure that He will help us carry out the task He gives us. May we be generous and do what He asks of us, for His glory and for the betterment of our life.

Jesus took much of His teachings from His Jewish heritage. He gave new meaning to the word 'neighbour' which, for the Jew of His time, was understood to mean their fellow kinsman and countrymen. The neighbour was the person who shared their values and their faith. But Jesus changed all that.

In this simple parable in today's Gospel He extended the definition of neighbour to be every human being in need, regardless of their skin colour, ethnic background, political party or religious belief. We are obliged to treat every human being as our neighbour.

But what does it mean to be a 'neighbour' to everyone we meet? Being a neighbour means more than chatting over the fence to the person next door, sharing a cup of coffee in the morning with an elderly relation or taking our turn at driving local children to school. These gestures are marks of a good neighbour and ought to be done. But Jesus pushed the obligations of neighbourliness much further than conventional friendliness.

Being a neighbour means rescuing people who are in trouble. We usually steer clear of them for fear of 'getting involved' or 'getting hurt' but Jesus tells us to give to others without any strings attached. We usually are careful to give to people whom we love and who we know will repay our good turns. But according to Jesus neighbours meet the needs of friends and strangers alike.

Lord Jesus, You were a Good Samaritan to us, coming to our need when we were desperate and could not help ourselves. Let us be like You and follow Your example in our daily lives.

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