God of Infinite “Second Chances”

What do we treasure most about our lives?  Sick people or people who are in chronic pain say it’s health. Teachers and professors say that it’s intelligence, or education. Poor people think it’s money and the accumulation of things.  People who have a strong supportive family would say that family is most important.   I have my own opinion, but I’m keeping it to myself for now.  Among the greatest gifts, however, is getting second chance.  Jonah learns that firsthand: when God called him the first time, Jonah ran away. He was supposed to go to the great city of Nineveh and speak God’s word of judgment against it, but Jonah said “Um….no thanks.”  At which point he called his travel agent and booked an ocean cruise.  He heads in the opposite direction, running from God, but the problem is, you can’t hide forever from God.  As Joe Louis, the heavyweight once said—making this statement part of American colloquial vocabulary:  “He can run, but he can’t hide.”

God found Jonah out there on his cruise ship and sent the worst storm anybody had seen. It scared the ship’s crew so much that they figured one of their passengers must have honked off God in a big way.  When they found out that Jonah was trying to run away from God, they tossed him overboard right then and there.  After being picked up by a giant fish and spending 3 days in the belly of a biological submarine, the fish burps him up on the shore.  Just outside the city of Nineveh.  Gee, what a coincidence…

God gave Jonah a second chance–a second chance to be prophet to the great city of Nineveh, another chance to say “yes” to his calling.  Now, the people of Nineveh, as everyone knows,  are the worst people imaginable.  Like all the Assyrians, they were fierce warriors, cruel to people who angered them; they also thought they were the civilization that would last for all time.  In their day, the Assyrians had come down out of the north on their chariots, using their spears and swords and conquering every land in sight.  They had even leveled Israel’s capital city, Samaria, in a very short amount of time.  Biblical archaeologists say they used to pile up their enemies’ bones outside the gates of Nineveh, just to let people know, as they entered, how bad they really were. Certainly in Jonah’s mind, they deserved whatever punishment God wanted to smite them with, but instead, unbelievably, God gives them a second chance, too.  The God of Israel, the God whose cities they burned, whose people they ravaged, this same God sends Jonah, now strangely willing to preach, to give them another chance to repent. “Forty days more and the city will be destroyed!”

Jonah’s words convince all, from least to greatest, to put things right with God. Everybody puts aside their designer duds and cover themselves with sackcloth.  They take Jonah’s words to heart, they repent, and God forgives them, cancelling his planned destruction of the city.  Everyone got a second chance.

How about us? Don’t we need a second chance from God? Isn’t there something in our life, in our past, in our present situation, in our family, in our relationships that holds us in a quicksand of shame and blame?   Don’t we sometimes wonder if we have God’s plan for us on the right path?  Don’t we know on some level that we’ve been a little stingy with our love?  Hesitant with our generosity?

 Don’t we all know someone: a family member, or a friend, who’s been away from church for a while, or away from the sacraments, and they figure they can’t come back; that God won’t give them another chance?  Or worse, that the Church itself won’t give them a second chance?

The good news is that our God is a God who loves to give second chances. Every time the Chosen People turned away from God, the Bible relates how God gave them another chance to be faithful. King David sinned more than once in God’s sight, and God always loved him enough to give him another chance.

Those fearless disciples in today’s Gospel, the ones who courageously leave their comfortable lives behind in order to follow Jesus, are the same disciples who will run away in terror when Jesus is arrested.  They will not show themselves during his darkest hour.  And yet, from every dark hour comes a resurrection morning and true to his word, Jesus himself gives them another chance to be steadfast after his resurrection.  In fact, it might be that Jesus is really a woman disguised as a man.  Think about it:  he has to improvise a meal for five thousand guests with only leftovers on hand; he is constantly being misunderstood by groups of men, no matter how hard he tries to make himself understood.  And even after he’s dead, he still has to get up because there are still things left unfinished.

Our God loves to give second chances, so how can we deny second chances to the people around us?  How is it we deny second chances to ourselves, doubting God’s love for us, feeling unworthy and unlovable?  Although I have been pastor of this parish for only a short time, I have been involved in pastoral ministry for 30 years.  I have met and continue to meet people who doubt their own worthiness, who doubt their own divine nature and calling.  These people are never content, never joyful, and they wonder why God doesn’t do something to change that.  The truth is so simple: it’s not God that’s holding them back, they are holding themselves back!  The only reasonable thing to do, the only intelligent thing, the only Christian thing to do is to imitate our loving God, the God of second chances and give ourselves a break.  Give ourselves the same second chance we give others.  Second chances are what it’s all about.  Ask Jonah.  Ask the people of Nineveh.  Better yet, look within.  Ask God yourself.


About frmichelrcc

I have a degree in religious studies from the University of Wisconsin, did graduate work in theology at St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin, and also at St. Paul's University in Ottawa. I have been a Benedictine since I first professed as an oblate in 1982, making final profession in 2009. I have worked as vocations director in a large diocese in the mid-west and am a spiritual director in the Benedictine tradition. I have 3 sons, one of whom is now in God's loving embrace in eternity, and 2 grandsons, Bradley and Jacob.
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5 Responses to God of Infinite “Second Chances”

  1. Lawman says:

    I am very interested in pursuing your view of church. I am currently about to start a community as well in Louisville kentucky. Please visit my website at http://www.rabbounicatholiccommunity.com and lets talk on how to make Christ present.

    • frmichelrcc says:

      Father, I have visited your website and I congratulate you on finding the courage to step forward for the sake of the Gospel. We should perhaps speak in person or at least by private email. There are aspects of ministry where we can be supportive of each other, and I would consider it a privilege to assist you in whatever way I can. Please write to me at frmichel@reformedcatholicchurch.org

      With my prayers and admiration, I remain,
      Fr. Michel

  2. f__z says:

    father? why is it that even though i’ve been doing everything to achieve my goal
    nothing happens.. is it because im not doing good enough? or is it because its not time yet?
    or is it because im not worthy of such achievements/goals. But whenever i see my friends they
    seem to have achieved the things that i wanted, get the things ive dreamed of having… its odd but moreso frustrating and depressing. why is this happening? i dont want to be a hater and dont want to think life is unfair… but im thingking otherwise… can you give me more insights about this… thanks and Gob bless!

    • frmichelrcc says:

      It’s never easy to look at where we are in life when we are comparing ourselves with others. We have our path to walk, and they have theirs. I’m not sure what your goals are, and even though you say you are missing “the things you wanted”, I am assuming that these things are not “things”, not material possessions. Jesus does not promise material wealth to those who follow Him, only spiritual liberation from the attachment and the possibility of living in the Reign of God right here and now. That said, there are tactics we try when we are trying to make our way in life, whether that be schooling, finding another career path, developing new relationships, etc… Unless we are sure that those things are what God wants for us, we will either a) be unsuccessful in achieving them or, b) become unhappy when we do achieve them. So, first of all we need to find some serious quiet time to listen to God’s will for our lives. It’s never something grand and glorious, it’s always right in front of our faces–but we don’t always see it. Second, we find someone with whom we share a spiritual connection and talk it out. Don’t ask people for advice (that only encourages ego on their part), just ask for someone to listen with their heart. Then, after those two steps, it’s time to make an action plan for manifesting the destiny God wants for you. It does work out, but in God’s time, and on God’s terms. If you want to talk further, let me know. Be still today, and know that God loves you and believes in you far more than you can ever love or believe in Him. Peace!

  3. Pingback: 2010 in review « Fr. Michel's Weblog

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