Grace to you!
Yesterday, we learned that our calling here on earth is an invitation to bear fruits—virtuous life and being witnesses of the Good News to others. Today’s reflection will draw from the example of Jonah and show us how not to do so.
We are presented with the call and mission of Jonah (Jon 1:1:2:1-2), a beautiful story for bible study. The account of Jonah’s mission will be the theme of our reflections for the next three days.
The book of Jonah, as you may have known, is one of the Minor Prophets’ accounts in the Old Testament. It has four chapters. The central message is God’s universal plan for salvation, a plan not restricted to the Jews. It is also about God’s mercy for the repentant sinner.
God called Jonah to go and preach repentance to the People of Nineveh. Jonah decided not to go.
I would love for us to pay attention to what Jonah did instead of listening to God’s request. Scripture tells us he went to Joppa; and from Joppa, boated to Tarshish. In other words, he went in the opposite direction of Nineveh, where God wanted him to go.
Biblical history and geography show us that Jonah was from Gary-hepher, located at the borders of Jerusalem to the northeast and Joppa to the West. From Jonah’s residence to Nineveh (which is located around modern day Mosul in Iraq) would have been about 600 miles to the east. Joppa was the main seaport in the area.
So what did Jonah do? He went to Joppa, paid for his fare to board the sheep, completely in the opposite direction of where God had sent him to go, and headed to the West. He did not go to the Midwest, but to the farthest known city in the ancient world which was Tarshish in ancient Spain, a journey of about 2200 miles from Joppa.
Basically, it’s like someone who is in Memphis, Tennessee, who has an SOS call to save people from the impending danger of hurricane Harvey in Franklin, Tennessee. Instead of heading to Franklin, the person went in the opposite direction, going to the farthest west of the USA, such as Portland or San Francisco so as to evade the mission. Or, someone in Cameroon was sent on a necessary mission to Nigeria or Ghana, but the person took off to Ethiopia so as to dodge the mission.
These are the closet examples I could use for us to relate to this story. Jonah simply didn’t want to be bordered by “God’s thing.”
Does this not sound familiar? Often in our life, we try to run away from God's invitation and mission for us. Like the priest and the Levi in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37), we turn the other way from the poor, and from situations that call for our attention. We simply want to evade God’s mission as much as possible because we have our own plans. It’s like we say, God if you are not going to let me do what I want, I will run farther away from religion or from all this churchliness or “creepy Jesus” thing.
Yet God isn't giving up on us. He follows us wherever we go, not by stalking us, but by His tender hands and graces nudging us to go in the right direction. He did the same to Jonah.
I pray for you today. If you have been running away from inspirations to do something good, and holy, may you embrace it with joy. Amen. Like the Good Samaritan, may we “Go and do likewise” (Lk 10:35).
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday Week 27 A: Jon 1:1:2:1-2, 11; Lk 10:25-37]
Fr. Maurice Emelu
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.