If we keep reading, we find that the people and the king of Nineveh not only listened, but repented. To their credit, they did not need to be told twice. Sadly, we learn later in the book that Jonah is not pleased with this development. I have always found this story to be delightful and even humorous at times, as Jonah provides a mirror in which we can see ourselves and our weaknesses. Why is it so hard for us to give others a second chance, even though we like to be on the receiving end?
We all have blind spots. Sometimes we are just not sufficiently cognizant of our own faults and we make a mistake by being too hard on others for theirs. We may be right about those faults, but remember we all need mercy. As the Psalmist explains, “A heart contrite and humbled, O Lord, you will not spurn.” The people of Nineveh surely demonstrated this truth. May God give us this kind of heart attitude, which allows us not only to receive mercy ourselves, but also to delight in mercy for others.
Like Jonah, we are also limited in our capacity to see the big picture. Consternation and discouragement may follow when things don’t seem to go our way. Sometimes other people behave badly and they disappoint us. The hurt is real, and as humans it is not easy to get beyond it. With the lens of faith, we can sometimes discern that God’s purposes are somehow being accomplished even when things don’t go our way. It is just difficult to see this in the fog of our frustration. We need time and distance – sometimes lots of it. Query how Jonah’s outlook might have changed if he had known that his preaching would become part of an object lesson used by the Lord, as reflected in today’s gospel?
Today’s Gospel contains a stern warning. Jesus does not mince words with these folks who have the light of truth in their midst, but who do not pay attention to the light they have. In our modern times, this also seems to be the case. New threats to marriage and the family, to the value of life, and to human dignity have emerged, to name a few. Cultures that have benefitted from the presence of light are now not only ignoring it, but are seeking to suppress it. The Gospel is reminding us that we who have light in our midst need to be especially vigilant about living faithfully. May God grant to each of us discernment and courage to be bearers of the light of Christ.
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