Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jesse Tree Reflections: December 17 & 18

My sister-in-law has the last page of symbols posted on her blog!  Here they are.

Dec. 17
Optional reading: II Chronicles 36:11-21 and Jeremiah 30:23-31:14 (Babylonian captivity)
Symbol: Stalks of grain against a green oval

“Thus says the Lord: ‘The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from afar.  I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.  Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel!  Again you shall adorn yourself with timbrels, and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.  Again you shall plant vineyards upon the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit.”  Jeremiah 31: 2-5

Again, Israel and her leaders have done evil in God’s sight, and again, God has chastised them, this time sending them into captivity in Babylon.  Jeremiah prophecies the end of that captivity, but his words also speak of the love of God for His people, and His coming advent among them.  From the depths of His love He will send forth His Son to save them, and all of us, from our sins.

God is faithful to us, and keeps His promises, even when we don’t deserve His love.  Without His gift of faith to each of us, we would be lost.  Yet He wants us to be happy with Him forever, and always seeks us even when we turn from Him.

Dec. 18
Optional Reading: Jonah 1:1-4:11 (Jonah and the Whale)
Symbol: The Whale

“Then tidings reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  And he made proclamations and published through Nineveh, ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them cry mightily to God; yea, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence which is in his hands.  Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not?’”  Jonah 3: 6-9

Is there anyone who does not know the story of Jonah, the prophet?  Jonah is given a mission by God: go to Nineveh, a city renowned for its wickedness, and preach to them a message of God’s wrath and their planned destruction.  At first, Jonah tries to flee, and ends up in the belly of the whale.  Then, Jonah goes to Nineveh, preaches his message, and withdraws to a hillside to watch Nineveh get destroyed.  But the people of Nineveh repent, and do penance; God spares them.

Instead of being happy, though, Jonah is angry!  He complains to God that after all he has been through, and how reluctantly he even came to Nineveh in the first place, the least that could have happened was that God could have done as He had planned, and wiped out Nineveh.  Jonah complains even further when a plant which is giving him shade on the hillside dies--why is God humiliating him and making him suffer so?

God replies to Jonah’s complaint by saying that if Jonah can be sorry at the death of a plant he didn’t sow and didn’t tend, can’t God Himself be sorry for Nineveh, and spare them from their sin?

The story of Jonah teaches us that God expects us to be concerned for each other.  He never wants us to wish others ill.  He wants us to work tirelessly and to pray without ceasing for those who do not know Him, instead of washing our hands of them and turning away to await their destruction.  Our charity toward others reflects our Father’s will, and pleases Him.

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