I would imagine that Jonah would have been delighted to be called by God for a special service. He wasn’t. He fled from God. Where do you go to flee from God? Jonah decided to take the first ship leaving the harbor to the vastness of the sea. But that was not far enough. A strong storm came along and the sailors, thinking Jonah was the cause, tossed him overboard. A large fish swallowed Jonah. In the belly of the fish, Jonah met God again and prayed, “With resounding praise, I will sacrifice to you, Lord.” The fish ejected Jonah upon the shore, where God again speaks to our unwilling prophet. Jonah, without much enthusiasm and against his better judgment, obeys and sets out for Nineveh.
God finds us where we are. There is no place to hide from God. That is reassuring to those of us who lose our way, at times on purpose, and wonder if God really does care. God’s love is greater than our rebellious acts, our resistance or our lack of enthusiasm. God stays with us, speaking to us words of love to draw us back into harmony with yourself, one another and with God. Never give up on yourself or anyone else who has wandered far away and seems like a lost cause.
Jonah converted the people of Nineveh, a city that was a three-day journey across. That is, it was a big place with a lot of people. Jonah lacked enthusiasm for his mission; he was angry and disagreeable. Yet, he accomplished something great for God, because God was with him. With God’s grace, imagine what we can do with fire in our hearts, joy in our spirits, and determination in our wills. And when we don’t have fire, joy and determination, believe that God does not give up on us.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., resides in Chicago.