Jonah: Wed. Feb. 29,2012 1st reading of 2nd Wed. of Lent.
The brief little book of Jonah presents us with a very powerful challenge/lesson , especially for the season of Lent. It is a call of the prophet to preach repentance to one of the worst enemies of God’s people: the hated Assyrians who viciously conquered the northern 10 tribes of Israel. The Assyrian capital was Nineveh. Bear in mind that the inspired writers ultimately understood such a catastrophe of being conquered and carried off into slavery as a punishment from God for their infidelity. Considering that God had raised up many prophets before Jonah who preached repentance to His chosen people and time and again the people rejected those prophets and did not repent, it must have been utterly mind blowing for Jonah to be directed now to go preach the potential for forgiveness to these awful infidel enemies.
Thus in the first instance this vocation was so alien to Jonah’s way of thinking, that he tried to run away from it, rather than obey. So we have the more famous story of Jonah being swallowed by Leviathan (a whale) making his attempted flight unsuccessful, and God a second time challenging him to preach to the Ninevites. So we have this day’s first liturgical reading. Jonah finally goes to Nineveh and influenced no doubt by his own prejudices , in a half hearted way preaches repentance to the Ninevites.
Now comes the knife turning in the wound. How many times did the chosen people hear this message and yet continued to give it a deaf ear? Yet the hated infidel enemy needed only a reluctant half hearted announcement and they took it to heart. As the story goes, given but one chance, they grasped it wholeheatedly, while by comparison, how many times did His chosen ones ignore their opportunities?
I should think this should give us serious grounds for reflection. How many Lents have we heard the call to repentance: as St. Paul says: Now is the acceptable time; now is the time for repentance! Is our response to take a raincheck as the Israelites so often did? How many chances will we get before God goes elsewhere?