I’d like to once again out the focus on our first reading today. Let’s take a look at Jonah. When we hear his name, we think of one of two things. Three days inside the belly of a whale, or a character who brings bad luck wherever he goes. At best, he is an unwilling missionary. A bigot who by his own admission hated foreigners. He did not deem them worthy of his time.
We are told that the Lord orders Jonah to go to Nineveh, the Capital of Assyria. He is to preach repentance to the Ninevites, for their wickedness had come before the Lord. This vocation doesn’t bring Jonah any joy.
Preach penance to pagans? Announce salvation for non-Jews? Not on Jonah’s watch. He runs away; buys a ticket on freighter. And in the midst of a storm, the pagan sailors draw lots to determine who has brought them such bad luck. Of course, it’s Jonah.
And he is thrown overboard, and swallowed by a whale, who takes him to where God wants him to go. To preach to the Ninevites.
Why did we put such a reluctant prophet in God’s book? You see, the point is not really centered on Jonah. Yes, it tells us much about him, but it tells us more about God. Yes, we can discover how foolish a man sent by God can be; how difficult it can be to grasp the goodness of God.
In this story, we see, through Jonah, how good God is; how loving He is. All people are worthy of His care, and so are called to repent. “Repent” simply means to turn to God. Jonah couldn’t see that. He wasn’t a and person, just shortsighted; too wrapped up in his own narrow nationalism. God was his God, too. The God of the Hebrews imprisoned in one country, one temple; one Ark of the Covenant.
The meaning of Jonah is that God’s loving mercy waits for all who repent. Jonah found out the hard way that no one is exempt from God’s love and His mercy.
Some of us try and run from God – flee from God to an extent; limit Him to an hour a week. Some feel God cannot help them and they completely ignore God. “MY marriage is breaking up; a loved one is dying; after 30 years in my company, I am being let go.” Do you think to discuss that with the Lord?
My friends, take your devastation to the foot of the Cross. Everything we experience, Christ has experienced it before us. God’s Son became human, just like us. He lived as we live; grew as we grow; ate as we eat; became tired, frustrated. He experienced all of our doubts and fears.
And when we exclude Him from our lives, God ceases to be God, and we are in danger of becoming like Jonah. We must not allow this to happen. We must not run from God, must not ignore Him.
Each of us must realize that we are in the presence of a God who loves us so much that even when we leave Him, He stays with us in the Eucharist. So, turn to the God who lives and loves.
And, call to mind the words of St. Peter: “Lord, to whom should we go? Only You have the words of eternal life.”