God says: Don't leave town without listening to the story of Jonah!
It is couched in between two Minor
Prophets, Obadiah and Micah, it is composed of only 4 chapters, with only 48
verses in total, a small book, a minor prophet but with an extremely explosive
message—it is the book and the person of JONAH!
God summoned Jonah to go to a place
he did not want to go, to visit a people he did not particularly like, and to
give a message he literally detested—all this to the pagan city of Nineveh!
Jonah’s response to God’s call? A flat and unequivocal “No!” I will not go! To prove it, Jonah jumped into a pagan ship
going in the exact opposite direction! Jonah reasoned that this would solve the
God had other plans. When God wants to carry out a mission, he
finds the means and the wherewith to accomplish it! God sent two unexpected
surprises to Jonah: a powerful storm and a huge fish. Neither of these ever crossed the mind of
The storm compelled the sailors to
question who provoked it. Jonah pleads guilty! Then Jonah, cast into the depths
of the sea, surmising his life would be snuffed out, finds himself swallowed up
by a huge fish and remaining in the fish’s belly for three long days and three
After the duration of three days, the
fish vomits Jonah out of his mouth and where does Jonah end up? Guess where??? Exactly where Jonah had decided to escape and
avoid at all costs--- the huge city of Nineveh.
When God wants His way, He will carry it out and sometimes in the most
Now Jonah, the resistant prophet of
the Lord, starts out on his mission and preaching. The city of Nineveh was
enormous, filled with pagans, even more filled with sin and Jonah’s message
clear and to the point was that of conversion or else condemnation: “In 40 days Nineveh and its entire people
will be destroyed!”
To his great surprise, the news of
this “message of doom” arrived to the ears of the king and the result was
shocking: total call to conversion for the whole kingdom, nobody excluded, not
even the animals!
Man and woman, young and old, even
the four-footed creatures had imposed upon them from the King himself both a rigorous
fast and outward display of penance—the donning on of sackcloth and ashes!
Peering down from heaven upon the
humble and repentant Ninevites, God points out to Jonah their attitude of
conversion, their change of heart. Consequently, God Himself decides to hold off
on chastising the Ninevites!
Irritated at God’s decision, Jonah
was expecting another Sodom and Gomorrah to be displayed to Nineveh! Jonah wanted revenge and justice to be
requited and quickly. However God preferred mercy. God is slow to anger and rich in mercy. Man, on the contrary, is quick to anger and
slow to forgiveness. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, as high are the
heavens above the earth, so are God’s thoughts above ours!
The last verse and thought in the
Book of Jonah is very telling. These
poor people do not know how to distinguish between their right hand and their
left! In other words, ignorance is so
vast in this huge land. Jesus said from
the cross similar words: “Father forgive
them for they know not what they are doing.”
How many lessons can we glean from
this short but powerful book of the Prophet Jonah? In how many ways might we be able to
identify with the person of Jonah? Do
we suffer from the same “Jonah-complex?”
Why not enter our own hearts and make a brief but sincere examination of
conscience. Pray and respond interiorly
to these thought-provoking questions!
RESISTANCE! How often in our lives have we heard God
calling us clearly—as in the case of Jonah—and we purposely closed our ears to
Worse yet! How often have we
heard the call insistently and clearly and not only have we resisted but worse yet,
turned our backs on God—like the Prodigal Son—and ran in the opposite
direction? Maybe it happened within the last 48 hours???
SURPRISE DIVINE INTERVENTION. In His Divine Providence and infinite
goodness, how often has God--- like Francis Thompson’s, the “Hound of Heaven”
sought us out despite our resistance and flight from Him—pursuing us and
tracking us down?
STORMS. Spiritual, emotional, moral, social,
family, economic storms! How often has God intervened—possibly in a very
powerful and unexpected way—sending some powerful storm in your life to bring
you back to the right path? God is a
mortal enemy of complacency. In a clear
and cutting way God reminds us of this in the Book of the Apocalypse: “You are neither hot nor cold—I wish you
were—but you are lukewarm. Therefore, I will vomit you out of my mouth.” Sometimes God is forced to descend in
torments, storms and tempests to shock us out of our lukewarm, anemic, indolent
spiritual malaise! Augustine reacted
violently to this attitude—after God sent storms in his life—with these words:
“Lord, cut me in this life, burn me in this life, but save me for the life to
SURPRISE CONVERSIONS! True, conversion is the work of God in His
way, His time and His manner. However,
God often utilizes secondary means to bring about the conversion of
individuals, families and even nations!
Jonah’s shock was the conversion of these Ninevites; he was expecting
quick chastisement and total annihilation!
However, God had other plans, surprise plans. God wanted Jonah simply to
obey, to say “yes” to Him as His instrument and then God would do the
rest! Could it be right now that God is
calling you and calling me to be a modern Jonah? Could it be that our timidity,
our fear, our lack of total trust in God is blocking God’s work in the
conversion of one, many, maybe even a multitude? What would have happened of Saul had he never
converted to St. Paul, if Simon were
never converted to St. Peter, if Augustine were never converted to SAINT
AUGUSTINE? Today if you hear His
voice harden not your hearts! “Speak, O
Lord for your servant is listening!”