The Long Shadow

Feast of St. Francis Assisi

The Long Shadow By Phyllis Wheeler

A Book Review and Commentary

Jonah Flees From the Lord

1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

10 This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.)

11 The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

12 “Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

13 Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. 14 Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” 15 Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. 16 At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.

Jonah’s Prayer

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. 2 [a]From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
    swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
    from your sight;
yet I will look again
    toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,[b]
    the deep surrounded me;
    seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit.

“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
    to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.


    This book is in many ways a “Jonah story,” for our main character, Richie, is a fourteen-year-old who ran away from his Aunt Trudy’s home, a woman who really never wanted him, deep into the Missouri woods, he loved.

        In the woods, he meets Morris, a black man on the run who befriends Richie.  Richie gets picked up by a  trucker while hitchhiking which mysteriesly begins his journey to 1969 and 1923 in search of answers for Morris in order to help Morris go home.

    Ultimately what he finds on this journey is a transformation of himself from the racism within himself and around him, and learning to accept everyone as simply human beings on the same journey.

    This is the same journey of Jonah, and of Francis of Assisi. All three obeyed God reluctantly. The Latin roots of the word “obey” means, literally, to hear the direction of, to turn our ears toward, or more simply to listen.

    Saint’s listen to God in the despised, the weak, and the marbelized-in the Ninevites, in blacks of 2019, 1969, and 1923, in all who are cast aside by the world.

    St. Francis was so attuned to God’s voice that he heard God everywhere, particularly in those silenced and misunderstood–lepers, beggars, and even animals.

    One prayer we all should pray is that we follow the example of all three, Jonah, Richie, and St. Francis of listening to God in all of creation–particularly in what is hard for us to hear–the beggars, the homeless, the disenfranchised, the blacks, Native Americans and all people of color outside our doors. St. Francis will bless our animals but calls us to spread that blessing to all who suffer. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Fr. River Damien Sims,sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Tuesday, October 5, 1:00- p.m.-4:30 p.m.-Nurses giving vaccine on the Haight.

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