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Jonah knows the folly of running from God

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By Mary Morrell
Associate Director, Office of Religious Education
Diocese of Metuchen
Catholic Online

"All which I took from thee I did but take, Not for thy harms, But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms. All which thy child's mistake, Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home: Rise, clasp My hand, and come."
Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven

One of the things I miss because I live far away from my extended family is the opportunity to reminisce, to share the "remember when" stories of our youth.

When at a prayer service recently, where the story of Jonah was read for a reflection, one of those childhood stories started me laughing in the middle of an otherwise quiet moment.

As happened frequently during my teenaged years, I had gotten in trouble for some transgression and had attempted to escape my mom's anger by seeking refuge at my cousins' house directly behind us. All that separated our large lawns was a split rail fence. I, however, ran furiously out our front door, around the corner and down the next block to their front door.

Breathless and frantic all at the same time I pounded and pounded, yelling, "Let me in! Let me in! She's coming after me!"

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"I'll let you in," a voice from inside replied as the door opened quickly.

For a split second I thought I was home free, that was until I realized that the voice behind the door was my mother's and the hand that grabbed me to pull me inside was hers as well. My first thought, even before wild imaginings of punishment, was, "How did she get here before me??!!"

I learned then that, "You can't run from mom!" especially one that can still climb a split rail fence!

Many years later, as I often tried to negotiate some terms of agreement with another Parent, I learned most assuredly that you can't run from God, either!

The story of Jonah played a big part in that lesson, as whenever I attempted an aversion the "whale" would find its way into that moment's experience. Eventually, I even started a manuscript for a reflection journal entitled, "Jonah Knows: The Folly of Running from God."

The experience of being pursued by God is one that spiritual awareness and growth may reveal to each of us at some point in our lives. Certainly it is a subject of many spiritual writings, but one in particular stands out as memorable: The Hound of Heaven, written by poetic genius Francis Thompson. Born in England in 1859, Thompson's struggle to find his way in life took him from a life of education to life on the streets as an opium addict. Still he managed to get some of his poetry on paper and was rescued from his tragic life by an admirer of his writing.

He entered the literary circle of the time but succumbed to tuberculosis at a young age. His early death followed, no doubt, from the path of his life which he captures in his famous poem of the Divine pursuer: I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled Him, down the arches of the years; I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways, Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears, I hid from Him, and under running laughter."

Thompson experienced the God who follows the fleeing soul with steadiness and love. Though we try to hide in the bounty and comfort of our earthly existence, God never wearies in our pursuit, until that day when we embrace our God with similar passion; until that day when we come to know the folly of running from Love.

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Diocese of Metuchen NJ, US
Mary Morrell - Associate Director, Office of Religious Education, 732 562.1990



Jonah, folly, running, God, pursue

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