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Wednesday of the First Week of Lent - A Question of Measurement

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jonah isn’t very successful as a prophet I would say. Both before he even gets to Nineveh, and after he has fulfilled his mission, he is unwilling and fearful, grumpy, stubborn and angry even unto death, as he himself says (Jonah 4, 9). The only time he does what he’s supposed to do, is in today’s reading, where he actually goes out in the streets of Nineveh and proclaims the message of God. In today’s reading we meet him at the high point of his prophetic career. But on the whole, Jonah is not better than the average prophet. He seems rather mediocre at best , if we had to give him a rating.

 Some years ago, during a canonical visit in the priory of Lille, the provincial at that time, Bruno Cadoré, spent an evening with the student brothers. Towards the end of the evening, he gave us some concluding words. I don’t remember much of what he said, except maybe this one thing: He said: ‘Vous êtes ... médiocre’ – ‘You are… mediocre’ . It was not meant in the sense that we were being really poor, bad brothers, but being ordinary or average. You are average brothers, you are ordinary, run-of-the-mill brothers, not exceptionally good, not exceptionally bad. You are what you are.

And so are we. Most of us are quite simply what we are. Most of us are not saints in the high sense of that word. Nor are we really that bad. So am I thereby claiming that we are all ‘average’? This, I think, is not to get the point. You see, our worth, our position before God is not measured by our standards of measure. In Christ, we have become signs of the infinite love that God offers freely to every human being. This is the sign that we are called to show to the people of our own time. This is the one thing that our Father would like to see us do.

However, we easily fall back to the temptation of trying to measure our lives, often resulting in doubts about ourselves and our capacity of being a witness or even being loved. We should then remember this: however average or mediocre our lives may be – it may help to lift our eyes and look towards him with whom we have become one. And we should try to measure ourselves the same way that the Father measures his beloved Son. At that moment, we might understand what grace really is.

Bror Haavar Simon Nilsen OP


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