Merciful Propositions by Patrick Henry Reardon

Merciful Propositions

There are two stories in Holy Scripture that end with an unanswered proposition: the Book of Jonah, and the parable of the Prodigal Son. The drama in both these stories builds to the propositions with which they end. That is to say, it is the intended point of the stories themselves. In each case, moreover, this proposition, which is directly put to a character in the story, is implicitly addressed to the reader as well.

This correspondence between the two narratives invites their further comparison. In fact, they are similar in other respects.

First, they have the same theme: Both are stories of the divine mercy bestowed on the unworthy—the Ninevites and the younger son, both of whom are described as sinners. Of the younger son we are told that he “wasted his possessions with prodigal living,” the inheritance acquired by his father’s lifetime of hard work (Luke 15:13). As for Nineveh, the story of Jonah begins by mentioning the wickedness of the place (Jonah 1:2).

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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