Scripture Reading for Today: Jonah 4:1-11 (read it here)
The disaster has been averted; the great city, its king, people, and animals have been spared. The people as well as the royal house of Nineveh have been moved to full repentance by Jonah’s preaching.
Such success was never enjoyed by prophets like Jeremiah and Isaiah even within their native Judah. But Jonah is not pleased.
Having been forced to serve an enemy—and the Assyrians, were certainly the enemy of Jonah’s people—Jonah has no desire that they benefit from his efforts. Jonah wants no mercy for Nineveh. And yet they repented.
With great assertiveness, Jonah confronts God; and God, in turn, confronts Jonah. Jonah is angry and takes his displeasure out on God. Jonah knew that God is merciful, patient, compassionate, and slow to anger with his people Israel, but Jonah resents the fact that God treats the Assyrians also in the same way.
For Jonah, giving Nineveh the opportunity for repentance and being saved from destruction was anything but a tragedy, because they deserved annihilation for all the suffering and bloodshed they had inflicted on his people and neighboring nations.
Jonah seeks solitude outside the city, declares to God that he would rather die than see Nineveh spared, and waits for the outcome, hoping that God will finally take notice and decide to rain down fire and brimstone on Nineveh not to disappoint his prophet.
But God will not be swayed by his prophet’s narrow-mindedness. Instead, God gives Jonah a lesson to move him away from his anger and awaken in him a sense of God’s compassion for all his creatures, be they Jews or hated Assyrians.
Jonah can see goodness in a simple plant even though it lasts only a day. Why can he not see, as God does, goodness in the people of Nineveh? They are in danger of withering from ignorance and sin just as the plant withered when attacked by the worm.
Furthermore, Jonah did not have to care for the plant at all, yet he still valued its presence. Then, how much more should God value a city of 120,000 souls and their animals that He brought to life and has always cared for?
Our Reading clearly has a universal perspective. It is true that God has chosen Israel and called the people for a special purpose, but God continues to be the One who creates and controls the natural world, caring about all the peoples of the earth.
The Book of Jonah ends abruptly here with a deafening silence. God is given the last word to make it clear that if Jonah, or anyone else, thinks that the death of their worst enemies is viewed by God as a grace, he has no insight into God’s ways, God’s word, and God’s vision for the world.
Christ’s offering of his Body and Blood is the clearest evidence of his unlimited love, mercy, and compassion for us despite our limitations and failures.
Let us be thankful that God does not deal with us as we deserve.
Encouraged by Mary, let us also relinquish those prejudices and biases that prevent us from seeing the goodness that is there in every human being.
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Let us make this a blessed day.
Keep Jesus in your mind and heart and share him with all you meet.
Fr. Michael Brizio, IMC
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