Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Go, Jonah, Go!

Jonah is one of my favorite books of holy Scripture.  I do not know whether it is historical or parable; it does not matter.  The book is inspired, and reveals truths about God.  It is a story full of hope and love in spite of concupiscence.   There are times when I wonder if I have missed the will of God.  The book of Jonah gives peace in that regard.  It reveals how God directs our paths.  Let us begin with Jonah.
You have to love Jonah.  He is human; he is patriotic.  He is a prophet of God; he probably knows what Assyria—of which Nineveh is the capitol—is going to do to Israel.  If he does not, then it is certain that he knew Assyria was Israel’s enemy and knew how cruel they were.  When God tells him to go and preach destruction to Nineveh, he disobeys because he knew God was merciful and that, if they repented, God would be merciful to them.  Therefore, out of love for his country and his countrymen, he goes the opposite direction. 
 God, out of love for Jonah and the people of Nineveh, threw thorns and walls in the path of Jonah to get him through the maze he had created for himself.  Jonah did not love his enemy; therefore, God had to teach him, to mold him.
Peter Kreeft noticed:  “Ironically, every person and thing in the story obeys God except Jonah. The sailors fear God. The lots they cast tell the truth. The storm arises at God’s will. The fish swallows Jonah when God calls it. The Ninevites repent when Jonah delivers God’s Word. The plant grows up over Jonah when God commands it. The worm eats the plant when God brings it. Everything from large fish to worms obey God—everything except God’s own prophet!”[1]  However, let’s think about Jonah. Jonah is a type of Christ.  One may object, and say, “But he disobeyed God.”  That is true.  Adam sinned against God; nevertheless, he also is a type of Christ.  Do not look at every single deed under a microscope; look at the big picture.  Look at what he did.
Jonah was told to go; he did go.  He went the wrong direction, but he did go.  Jesus left the side of the Father.  Jonah gets into a boat; Jesus gets into a boat.  Now, a “boat” can signify different things.  It can signify the Church, Mary, or the cross.  In this story, it signifies all three.  Jonah falls asleep in the boat with a tempest ongoing, as does Jesus.  When Jonah is thrown overboard, the waters become calm; Jesus calms the sea.  Because of the “resurrection” of Jonah, people are saved.  The people of Nineveh had become aware of what had happened to Jonah; therefore, they took his message seriously.
When I was a protestant, we were taught that Jonah was evidence that God is God of second chances.  I do not see it in this view. I see the love of God not only to the people of Nineveh and the sailors but to Jonah himself.  God wills that all His people conform to the image of His Son.  God throws thorns and walls in the path of Jonah to lead him to repentance, to mold him more into the image of Christ.  However, this cannot be viewed as fatalism, for Jonah still had the ability, had he willed, for continued disobedience.  The sailors could have remained belligerent and not turned to God.  The people of Nineveh could have not listened to Jonah, thinking that their gods were more powerful than Jonah’s God.  Sometimes we are thick-headed; but, if we remain steadfast in the desire that God transform us through His Church and the Sacraments into the image of Christ, He will do just that.
I have just scraped the surface on the book of Jonah.  It is very deep, with many nuggets of gold.  When you read it trying to find Jesus in as many details as you can, you will truly be enriched.
--Tommy Turner

[1] Kreeft, P. (2005). You Can Understand the Bible: A Practical Guide to Each Book in the Bible (p. 150). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.