Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jonah & Jesus: "Repent!"

I don't know how many times we have readings in the Sunday lectionary from the Book of Jonah. I just know that it isn't very many. So, it strikes me as funny and a little odd that our first reading for the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B, is about Jonah finally arriving in Nineveh, walking its streets and proclaiming, "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed" (Jonah 3:4)! Looking forward to our Gospel reading for today, as well as to Lent, I suppose we can see this as an earlier version of what Mark records Jesus as saying after emerging from the desert, which 40-day sojourn was preceded by His baptism by John in the Jordan, "Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15b).

Before making it to Nineveh, Jonah, after being called by the LORD, jumped the first ship going West (Nineveh was to the North/Northeast), headed to Tarshish, which at that time was literally the end of the known world. After the onset of a great storm that threatened the ship, once it was determined that Jonah was the cause of the storm, the crew threw Jonah overboard. Then Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and eventually spit up on the shore somewhere closer to Nineveh. Finally figuring out that he could not evade the call God gave him, Jonah went and proclaimed the message in our first reading. As we see, the response of the Ninevites, who were the enemies of Jonah's people, was to repent.

It is not only the back story leading up to what we proclaim today, but what Jonah did afterwards. You would think Jonah would be happy, or at least relieved, that the people (and even the animals) of Nineveh repented. He was not. He was angry. He went outside the city and sat on a ledge overlooking the city and grumbled to God.

When we compare Jonah's mission with Jesus' mission we can see that Jesus did not have the kind of overwhelming response Jonah elicited. Like Jonah, Jesus wound up on a hill outside the city. However, Jesus was not sitting and grumbling out loud to the Father about the empirically modest result of His efforts, He was nailed to the Cross out of love for all, even (especially?) for those who did not repent and the believe the Gospel, largely abandoned by most who had responded favorably.

1 comment:

  1. This brings to mind the late Fr. Neuhaus' encouragement the proposal the Christian makes to the culture and to the world is "winsome".


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