"My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn." —Psalm 51:19
When the Lord called Jonah to preach repentance to the Ninevites, Jonah disobeyed and ran away to Tarshish. After spending three days in the belly of a whale, Jonah reconsidered and went to Nineveh. He obeyed God, but according to the letter of the law, not its spirit (see 2 Cor 3:6). His heart wasn't in it. He didn't want the Ninevites to repent and be saved.
We sometimes obey God when our hearts are not in it. Some don't commit adultery only because they fear the consequences or don't have the opportunity. They're obeying the letter of the law but not its spirit. God's word says: "Like a eunuch lusting for intimacy with a maiden is he who does right under compulsion" (Sir 20:3).
Many people go to Mass on Sunday only because it's their "Sunday obligation." This is good, but the Lord calls us to a deep personal relationship with Him. Many businesses avoid expressing racism because they don't want to be taken to court or get bad publicity, while the CEOs of these businesses remain prejudiced.
T.S. Eliot said: "The greatest treason is to do the right thing for the wrong reason" (Murder in the Cathedral). Obey both the letter and spirit of the law.
Prayer: Father, may my love for You motivate my every action and decision (2 Cor 5:14).
Promise: "At the judgment, the citizens of Nineveh will rise along with the present generation, and they will condemn it. For at the preaching of Jonah they reformed, but you have a greater than Jonah here." —Lk 11:32
Praise: St. Casimir gave up the prospect of marriage to royalty in order to follow God's prompting to celibacy.
Reference: (For a related teaching, order our tape on Developing A Deep Personal Relationship with Jesus on audio AV 52-1 or video V-52.)
Rescript: †Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, August 11, 2008
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