Wednesday in the First Week of Lent at Mississippi Abbey
As the children of Abraham go, Jonah was a special needs child. Like Abraham he was called to go alone into a strange land. Like Abraham he was called to sacrifice his ethics, that is, as Abraham was called to kill his only son, Jonah was called to preach to Gentiles what was only for the Jews. Both men were called to sacrifice something they loved and it was that love that distinguished their sacrifices from crimes.
In short, both men experienced a Spiritual Trial. A Spiritual Trial is an experience in our relationship with God and things of God that causes anxiety or inner suffering and makes us wonder: Have I gone too far in daring to be a total self-gift to God?
A Spiritual Trial is a testing from God that must be gone through and endured in faith, trusting in God to help us through it and to understand it as a gift of love from the Father.
Abraham passed his test; he endured in faith. Jonah, our spiritual special needs child, failed the first trial. Although he was awkward, he was brought through nevertheless. And because he was brought through by the power of God, he was a sign to the Ninevites.
And Jesus will face His spiritual trial in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Father will bring Him through it. And thus, He will be a sign to the world.
Abraham, Jonah, and Jesus went through their trials alone. As one Christian philosopher noted, the distinguishing characteristic of a true person of faith is that such a person always lives in absolute isolation from others in their relation to God. We monastic’s call this “solitude.” The true person of faith will come through the trial because she is convinced and committed to what matters most and has organized her life toward it.
And we, Jesus’ followers, will have spiritual trials and we will wonder if we have gone too far with this following. It is then that we will have to become convinced and committed to what matters most and live that way. And in that endurance, we will be a Sign of Jonah to others.