In a recent homily called The Spiritual Drama of Jonah, Fr. Robert Barron talked about the prophet Jonah. I enjoyed his perspective and along with the introductory notes for the Book of Jonah provide background to understand today’s scripture readings.
I can relate to Jonah’s disobedience – when God called him, he ran away!
During his time away from God, Jonah’s life was not profitable (Fr. Barron did a lovely job with this part of the story). While trapped, Jonah “prayed to the Lord” (Jonah 2:2) and I think James 5:16b explains Jonah’s transformation:
“The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.”
Once Jonah is released, he returns to Nineveh and calls the people to repent:
“Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing,
“Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed”
After prayer, Jonah was convicted – he accepted God’s will for his life. Jonah was successful in calling the people of Nineveh to repent. The people for their part listened to him. The result was:
“When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.”
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus chastises his generation:
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it.”
Jesus cited both Jonah and the queen of the south (Sheba) to instruct us in their faith. In Sheba, “she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon” and because of Jonah’s preaching, the people of Nineveh “repented.”
So there are three lessons for us today:
Pray – I know that I should pray but so often in my life, prayer was either optional or non-existent. I find that consistent daily prayer builds faith and trust in God.
Repent – Of course in the season of Lent, Christians are called to repent. Catholics in particular should go to confession! I enjoy the benefits of this sacrament because it uplifts my spirit and unburdens me so that I can:
Preach – For much of my life as a Christian, I struggled with the idea of preaching the Gospel. this is because I suffered from a narrow understanding of the word preach. To preach meant either I was at a pulpit or I was on a street corner.
Thanks be to God that by reading scripture, particularly the Pauline epistles, I learned that each day, I must both pray and strive to show an example of Christian faith, hope, and charity. It is in the daily consistency that I am converted.
In my conversion, I become convicted like Jonah. Then it is only a matter of time when others around me take notice and begin to ask me questions. If we are in a state of trust in our relationship, then I am able to talk openly about my Christian faith – I am able to preach in a loving way, as Jesus preached to his disciples.
Pray today that like the prophet Jonah, our personal conversion may lead to conversion of those around us.
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Today we remember Saint Oswald - known for his sanctity and especially his love of the poor.