The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
2018 – Cycle B
Jonah 3:1-5, 10; Psalm 25; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-20
So the story goes…
God said to Jonah, ‘Go to the people of Nineveh and preach to them’. So Jonah made ready to go. Well, no he didn’t. If you remember Jonah ran away from God. Nineveh was east, Jonah got on a ship and went west.
Have you ever run away from God?
Are you running away from God?
Running away from God can occur in subtle ways. Consider what happens when we run from God?
We go in the opposite direction that God is sending us to go. This can take the form of our life choice or avoiding a life choice commitment; allowing ourselves to be carried away by the misuse of sexuality, feeding an appetite like shopping or work which consumes our days; finding excuses not to pray or participate in worship; lying to ourselves.
We thus fight God. We don’t listen to scripture speaking to us or make room for the silence necessary to listen. Silence is not just the absence of noise. Silence can be charged and meaningful; pregnant with the voice of God – if you are listening. Now you can fight God. Many of us do, but be assured our God does not like to lose.
Storms arise. An uneasiness within us that can even manifest itself in poor physical health – a life out of balance. An argumentative way of life with anyone and everyone.
Rejection occurs in some form. Remember Jonah was thrown overboard by the sailors. An inner loneliness can occur. Some of the loneliest individuals are those surrounding by people and activity.
Being swallowed up by the sea; we are also swallowed up God’s infamous large fish. The large fish is a place. It may be a place deep within us or a physical place. It is a real place though nonetheless from which we cannot leave until we confront ourselves and our relationship with God. The large fish is sent by God. It is a blessing whether we realize it or not. While in this large fish of a place, Jonah raises his mind and heart to the God he is running away from and prays: “Out of my distress I called to the Lord and God answered me…” A long way from running away from the God he now calls upon.
But attaining a change of heart is not easy. The large fish spews Jonah on shore – other words are not so polite – pukes, vomits, barfs. The spiritual life is not all candles and light organ music in the background as on television or clouds, harps and angels. The desert fathers and mothers of fourth century Egypt speak of spiritual warfare. The warfare is within us. It is a wrestling match like Jacob fighting the angel.
And that’s not all. After God told Jonah to go a second time, do you remember how Jonah reacted when the people of Nineveh repented? Jonah was angry; angry because he knew that God was gracious and merciful – can you believe that! Jonah was angry because he knew that God does not like to punish but is slow in anger. Jonah did not expect or want the Ninevites to repent. Attaining a change of heart is not easy.
For Jonah, his spiritual conversion was not complete and this very brief prophetic book ends with Jonah and God at loggerheads. Our stubbornness, our ego, our sense of self – righteousness, can often get in the way even with God.
I wonder, how many other large fish entered Jonah’s life?
I wonder, how many of us are running away from God?