Daily Reflection
October 8th, 2003
Ray Bucko, S.J.
Department of Sociology
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Jonah 4:1-11
Psalm 86:3-4, 5-6, 9-10
Luke 11:1-4

One of my favorite Sunday summer activities as a boy was to drive with the family “down” the Jersey Shore (the “to” is dropped in the Hudson County dialect), spend the day with my favorite aunt, uncle and cousins and swim in the ocean.  One Sunday I remember being “picked on” by my older sister just before we left for the drive back up to Bayonne.  My father became very annoyed at her and promised a punishment when she got home.  This pleased me to no end and I was full of happy anticipation. 

Well, the traffic was really bad that Sunday along Route 35 and we sat and sat in a long line of cars.  Besides, we were a family of “hunter-gatherers” at heart so we had to frequently pull off the road to sample local delicacies: watermelon from the fruit stand, soft ice cream from the ice cream stand and, best of all for me, smoked fish from the fish stand.  I recall chubs and whiting more golden than if Midas himself put the squeeze on them and fragrant oil running down my chin as I devoured the tender smoked meat as my mother yelled for me to watch for the bones…. 

But I digress – and am forgetting the story I’m telling—which is exactly what my father did when we got home to Bayonne.  He was so tired from the very long drive and so very full of fish/ice cream/watermelon/ all topped off by tender sweet fried clams at Howard Johnsons that he forgot all about my sister’s promised punishment.  But I didn’t forget!!!  I insisted to him that he carry through until it was pretty clear that he would punish me for annoying HIM!  I dropped the issue and settled for the last smoked chub in the bag!

I like Jonah.  I’m actually a Jonah kinda guy although I have never done time in the belly of a big fish.  I suspect we are all like Jonah, wanting people to get their “just desserts” and “come uppens” like Jonah wanted for the Ninevites, a people whom I suspected invented that expensive hand cream they sell in the better stores. 

Fortunately God is more forgiving than we are.  Fortunately for my sister too, she behaved better on the trip up from the shore and my own father relented!

When we pray the “Our Father” we put ourselves on the line—we ask forgiveness but also pledge to be people of forgiveness.  This was not easy for Jonah nor is it easy for us, especially when we are convinced of our own righteousness.

But who of us is totally righteous?  Or who of us are so perfect we can even spell the term?  I had to rely on the spell checker twice!

Not Jonah.
Not me.
Not my older sister.
My mother always told me:  If you want to make a friend be a friend.

The readings today tell us: If you want God’s forgiveness, forgive others. 

Seems simple enough, no? 

Now all I have to do is find a good place in Omaha to buy smoked fish!

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