Jesus’ condemnation of the self-righteousness of the people of his time in today’s Gospel reminds us of the wisdom of faith content by whatever provisions the Lord has chosen to give. Unlike the Ninevites, who repented from their sins simply by the words of Jonah without witnessing any miracles, the contemporaries of Jesus refused to repent even though he was among them working miracles day in and day out. While one group profited from the words of God delivered through a prophet, the other group turned from the Word of God and rejected his grace that would humble their hearts. The faith of Nineveh accepted whatever little revelation God was willing present to it and received such revelation with great humility. The faith of Jerusalem doubted all the revelation that God was granting them and rejected Jesus’ revelation with its pride. Allow Alexander Pope’s Universal Prayer to guide our own faith life today so that, with the humility the Ninevites, we may receive whatever little the Lord chooses to reveal to us with humility in faith.
Father of all! in every age,
In every clime adored,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!
Thou Great First Cause, least understood:
Who all my sense confined
To know but this—that thou art good,
And that myself am blind:
Yet gave me, in this dark estate,
To see the good from ill;
And binding Nature fast in fate,
Left free the human will.
What conscience dictates to be done,
Or warns me not to do,
This, teach me more than Hell to shun,
That, more than Heaven pursue.
What blessings thy free bounty gives,
Let me not cast away;
For God is paid when man receives,
To enjoy is to obey.
Yet not to earth’s contracted span,
Thy goodness let me bound,
Or think thee Lord alone of man,
When thousand worlds are round:
Let not this weak, unknowing hand
Presume thy bolts to throw,
And deal damnation round the land,
On each I judge thy foe.
If I am right, thy grace impart,
Still in the right to stay;
If I am wrong, oh teach my heart
To find a better way.
Save me alike from foolish pride,
Or impious discontent,
At aught thy wisdom has denied,
Or aught thy goodness lent.
Teach me to feel another’s woe,
To hide the fault I see;
That mercy I to others show,
That mercy show to me.
Mean though I am, not wholly so
Since quickened by thy breath;
Oh lead me wheresoe’er I go,
Through this day’s life or death.
This day, be bread and peace my lot:
All else beneath the sun,
Thou know’st if best bestowed or not,
And let thy will be done.
To thee, whose temple is all space,
Whose altar, earth, sea, skies!
One chorus let all being raise!
All Nature’s incense rise!