Jonah, the Man Who Ran From God

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings for Today

Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr – Memorial

The word of the LORD came to Jonah, saying: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.” So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD’S bidding.  Jonah 3:1-3

Jonah is one of the most beloved Old Testament prophets. Why? Perhaps because of the fascinating story of him being swallowed by a whale. This image lends intrigue to one’s imagination and is somewhat fairytale-like. It’s a good story and a fun story!

But what we may easily forget is why Jonah was swallowed by the whale. It was because he heard God call him to a particular mission in life and he ran as fast as he could the other way. He did all he could to avoid his calling. But God was relentless. In the end, God won and Jonah went to Nineveh to preach. The best part is that the people of Nineveh listened to him and changed their lives! Jonah’s preaching was, in the end, a great success.

Imagine what would have happened if Jonah would have just listened to God from the very beginning. It may have left us with much less of that fairytale-like story but it certainly would have saved Jonah and others a great amount of stress. He would not have had to endure the great storm at sea, the wrath of the crew on that ship, the distress of being thrown over the boat and the experience of being held captive in the belly of the whale for those three days. All this could have been avoided if he would have just listened to God from the very beginning.

With that said, it’s also interesting and insightful to look at the story from another perspective. The truth is that Jonah did endure all of these difficulties. And though we may be tempted to judge him for that and shake our finger at him, we may want to be careful. Why? Because it’s entirely possible that God actually allowed him, by an act of His divine permissive will, to go through these struggles for a reason. It’s entirely possible, and perhaps probable, that it was part of the wisdom of God that Jonah, at first, resisted His will. Why would God do this? Most likely for our sake in that Jonah becomes a great example for us. It seems clear that one of the main lessons from Jonah’s life was that God is relentless in His love for us and is relentless in calling us to embrace His will. So Jonah’s life and actions become prophetic and teach us a great lesson.

God does not give up on us. He does not simply throw us away the moment we turn from Him. Instead, our denial of Him only makes His resolve to pursue us all the greater. He takes our brokenness, our lack of resolve, our failings and weaknesses and uses them for His glory and His perfect plan.

Reflect, today, on whether you are discouraged in life and feel like you have failed in following the will of God for your life.  If so, then the message of Jonah is clear. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. God has not given up on His plan for you and He has not lost hope. In the end, you may discover that those parts of your life that seem to be the greatest burden and obstacle for you will be turned upside down by God’s grace and become the very source of the manifestation of His glory!

Lord, You never give up on me. You never lose hope. Give me the grace to change, to listen and to respond. Use my weakness and brokenness and let Your strength and grace shine through.

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Saint of the Day – Saint Agnes