Reflecting on Jonah 3:1-5,10
Much of the humor in the Bible is lost on us today because it so culturally-conditioned. But the passive, hypocritical Jonah in today’s first reading makes a great comic foil in any time.
Have you read the Old Testament book of Jonah lately? Try it. You’ll laugh at the guy who tells God he ABSOLUTELY will go east, then books passage on the fastest boat going west. Of course, he ends up being thrown overboard by the prayerful, (non-Jewish) sailors who recognize that God wants Jonah out of the boat and into the belly of the “big fish”.
After three days Jonah is spit up onto the shore and finally heads towards Nineveh. There the inhabitants (including the cattle!) of the capital city of the most violent empire in the ancient world “believe God” immediately, and fast and pray. When God has compassion on them and forgives them Jonah is FURIOUS, and at the end of the book we find him pouting under a tree that is quickly shriveling, taking away his shade and his last place to hide from the God who so maddeningly forgives the people Jonah hates.
But Jonah isn’t alone in his jealousy. I admit I’m jealous too, because it appears that the Ninevites were able to truly change with just a short encounter with God’s word. Real change— a change we can believe in—eludes us most of the time, and yet we long for it. Change our hearts this time, oh God. Put us anywhere, even in sackcloth and ashes in Nineveh—anywhere but with Jonah, spending eternity with an unconverted heart and a blazing, unrelenting sun.
What change do you long to make in your life?
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I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).