The book of Jonah is one of the shortest books in the Bible, but it speaks profoundly of situations we are seeing today.
Jonah had a calling from the Lord – He was called to preach repentance. It may not be difficult to preach repentance to your friends, your co-workers, or even your neighbors. But, Jonah was called to go to a people that he had a profound disdain for and to tell them to repent.
Instead, Jonah runs from God. But he not only runs from God, he asked God to destroy the people in Ninevah (after all, that’s what God said he would do. Right?). That’s how bad his hatred ran for them.
Even worse, he got angry when God did not destroy them. He got angry when God did not answer his prayer the way he wanted God to answer. (sound familiar?)
“Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry that God did not carry out the evil he threatened against Ninevah. He prayed ‘I beseech you Lord, is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? This is why I fled at first to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, loathe to punish. And now, Lord, please take my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:1-5)
I challenge you to think of the person who has done the most harm to you. Who is the person that has hurt you the most, broken your heart, taken something valuable from you, or did something evil to your loved one? Now, how would you feel if that person came and sat down beside you at Mass?
Run? Maybe. Silently pray for them to be struck with lightning (conveniently missing you of course)? Likely.
But, would you be able to extend your hand and say “peace be with you” and mean it?
That, in essence, was what Jonah was being asked to do. He was being asked to preach repentance to those in Ninevah. He was being asked, in essence, to wish them peace and blessings from God and desire for them to serve the Lord. The result? He couldn’t do it. (at least, not by choice)
Preaching repentance to the Ninevites was Jonah’s divine and specific call.
“The divine call is to always be a bearer of grace to the world, but God made you and me for some definite purpose.” (Bishop Robert Barron)
Jonah doesn’t just run from God; he runs the opposite way. He sails west – the direct opposite of Ninevah.
But, we have heard the story of the great storm coming and the other people in the ship becoming afraid. We know Jonah was swallowed by a whale and he eventually fulfilled his mission.
However, think briefly about the others on the ship with Jonah. The storm was threatening to destroy them all.
“The refusal of the divine mission means trouble both for the one who refuses and for those around him.” (Bishop Robert Barron).
What is God calling you to do that you are running desperately hard from? Are you called to share God’s love with those you find yourself despising and secretly wishing God would destroy?
“The only real sadness, the only real failure in life is not to become a saint.” Leon Bloy