Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Today, Jesus references the story of Jonah.  Jonah is a somewhat amusing story on many levels.

God calls Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh.  Jonah was being asked to help convert and save the very capital city of the Assyrian empire whose rulers conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and scattered its people. 

God called Jonah.  What was Jonah’s response?  He wanted no part of God’s plan.  He took a boat for the furthest known point in the completely opposite direction.  Nineveh was northeast of Israel.  Jonah went due west. 

He was swallowed by a fish and returned to his starting point.  Seemingly still reluctant, he went to Nineveh, preached the need for their conversion, and then sat outside of the city in hopeful expectation for its destruction.  As he waits for the death of many people, he gets upset that the plant giving shade dies.  Jonah’s name means “dove” in Hebrew.  Yet, he is anything but peaceful in what he himself wants for Nineveh.

That destruction never comes because the king of Nineveh calls for repentance.  Even the animals repented in sackcloth.

From a vocation standpoint, this is the most reluctant vocation ever.  First, he flees his call.  But God does not allow him to escape the call.  Then, he very reluctantly embraces it.  Despite his own misgivings, his mission is wildly successful.  God makes it so.  With only minimal cooperation on Jonah’s part.

If Nineveh converted because of the work of such a half-hearted prophet, why do the Jewish people in the first century not embrace the message of Jesus, the Son of God incarnate?  For people today who have the Gospels available to them, why do they not embrace the way of Christ?

Think back to what first made you become serious in following our Lord.  What was it that spurred that conversion within your heart?  How can you help to make a similar conversion possible for others? 

Has that initial conversion faded somewhat?  Or, perhaps, do we see how God has withdrawn those initial consolations so that we pursue God himself rather than the good feelings that accompanied our initial conversion?  Do we remain committed about growing ever closer to Jesus?