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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

24 January 2015

Reflecting on Jonah 3: 1-5, 10

I thought of Jonah a lot as I read Laura Hillenbrand’s stunning book Unbroken, and again last week when I saw the movie. What terror Louie Zamperini experienced as he was shot out of the sky by the Japanese, then set adrift on the sea for 47 (!!) days, dying of thirst and beset by hungry sharks circling his bullet-riddled raft.

Jonah’s terror was quite different. History’s most reluctant (and irritating) prophet was running away from God when the sailors transporting him threw him overboard in order to avoid God’s wrath. Sure enough, the moment he was in the sea the terrible storm calmed. And Jonah was swallowed up by a great fish.

Louie and Jonah were bound by the same journey. Their outcomes, however, were very different.  While suffering on the raft, a choir of angels appeared to Louie, singing him a song of healing that sustained him for the rest of his life.

Jonah too was given grace. Trapped for three days and nights in the belly of the beast, he was consoled by God’s presence. But, alas, once vomited back onto dry land his bitter heart was unchanged.

Their enemies were legion. Louie suffered unbelievable tortures at the hands of a particularly sadistic Japanese captor during his two years as a POW. Jonah refused to forget the atrocities and brutality of the Assyrians who had decimated his land. And God wanted to forgive them? No way.

In 1998, a jubilant Louie, having forgiven his tormentors years earlier, carried the Olympic torch past his old prison camp, the smiling Japanese applauding him on. Jonah? He’s still pouting under that shriveled broom tree, waiting for God to hate as much as he does.

How has grace given you an unbroken ability to forgive?

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I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Ordinary Time - Cycle B

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