Homilette for Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time

(Jonah 1:1-2:1.11; Luke 10:25-37)

Americans cherish autonomy. That is, we want to choose for ourselves what we will do. We see autonomy as the source of freedom and the cornerstone of happiness. Of course, we recognize the need for laws, but for many Americans the fewer, the better!

Jonah might be considered a typical American. Where God tells him to go to Nineveh as a prophet, he goes the other way as an autonomous person. Jonah is even less attentive to God than the pagan sailors who at first refuse to throw Jonah overboard because their consciences tell them that it would be wrong.

If we think of autonomy as freedom from servitude, it has something to commend itself. Humans should not be forced to submit themselves to others except for a serious reason like incarceration or imminent danger. Nevertheless, autonomy that runs against God’s intentions can endanger the welfare of a society. Because no one lives independently of others, everyone has responsibilities for the common good of all. Acting as if we were completely autonomous, we may refuse to recognize the benefits that others bring us and may reject the possibility of happiness in caring relationships with them.