Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Heeding the call

And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least. - Jonah 3:5

I love the book of Jonah.

A not necessarily quick refresher. Jonah was called by God to proclaim to the city of Nineveh that they had become so wicked that he was going to have to intervene with destruction. Jonah, instead of being obedient to the Lord, ran away boarding a ship to Tarshish. While he was on the ship, the Lord stirred up a hurricane which put the ship in great peril. While the crew was emptying cargo to lighten the load of the ship in hopes of preventing its destruction, Jonah was asleep down in the hold. He was awakened, and he and the crew cast lots as to whom was to blame for their current state of distress. Lo and behold, the lot fell to Jonah.

The crew asked Jonah who he was, where he was from, and what was his business. He replied that he was a Hebrew who worshipped the Lord. The sailors were frightened because Jonah also revealed that he was fleeing from the Lord, so Jonah volunteered to be thrown overboard to calm the tempest, which of course is exactly what happened. Oh, and he was eaten by a great fish and remained in the belly of the fish for three days and three nights. While in the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed to the Lord that "the vow I have made I shall fulfil!" and the fish vomited Jonah onto the dry land.

So, the Lord spoke to Jonah again, and this time Jonah was obedient. He told the Ninevites that they would be overthrown. Now, keep in mind that Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire, a great enemy of the Hebrews, so when they heeded the call to repentance, and God relented and did not bring disaster to Nineveh, Jonah was sort of irritated. Well, he was very irritated, irritated to the point that he asked God to take his life, to which God replied, "Are you right to be angry?"

So Jonah left the city, sat down under a shelter he made, and waited to see what would happen. God took this opportunity to teach Jonah a lesson. He caused a plant to spring up that gave Jonah shade and calmed his temper, which made Jonah very happy. Then God caused a worm to attack the plant, and it withered placing Jonah at the mercy of the scorching heat which caused him to feel faint and beg for death. Again God asks Jonah, "Are you right to be angry about the plant?" To which Jonah replied, "YES! I have every right to be very angry!" And God said, "Wait, you mean to tell me you are concerned about a plant that just popped up one night and died the next, but I can't be concerned for Nineveh, a city of over 120,000 people who don't know their right hand from their left, not to mention all the animals?"

What I find fascinating is that Jonah heard the call of God and ran away in fear. It took a near death experience for Jonah to repent of his disobedience to the call of God, yet God was merciful. On the other hand, the Ninevites, the mortal enemies of the Jews, heard the call of God to repentence and in fear of the Lord did not run away, but rather, they heeded the call and were shown the same mercy, for much to Jonah's chagrin, God loved the Ninevites as well. That is the theme of Jonah, mercy to those who heed God's call to walk in his path.

God calls us all to repentance through the sacrament of reconciliation which is a source of his great mercy administered through the Church. When God calls us to come home to the Church and be reconciled, the real question becomes are we going to be like Jonah and run away, or are we going to be like the Ninevites and heed the call?

I love the book of Jonah.

Welcome to the world, Walker Williams McCay.


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