Jonah 3: 1-5, 10 – 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31 – Mark 1: 14-20
Often an association is made between the books that are part of the Old testament in the Bible with accounts of an angry God, or bloody battles or stern prophet. Today, however, we hear but a brief passage from a different book from the Old Testament which can almost be called entertaining, the Book of Jonah. It is short in length, probably fictional in intent, and tells a story that might be called shocking. Jonah has been called to preach repentance to the foreign city of Nineveh which was located in modern-day Iraq.
Jonah wanted nothing to do with this task. He argues with God about it and does what he can to avoid carrying it out. Eventually, as we heard, he relents and does what he was told. As a result, he was shocked. Nineveh listened to him and repented. Yet Jonah still was not happy. In his mind, an enemy needed to be punished. Repentance, God’s mercy, was not enough. His thinking was limited to his way of thinking, not God’s way.
The lesson to be gained from this story applies now as much as it did then. An open and true understanding of the relationship that is to exist between God and mankind is to recognize that God’s mercy is extended to all persons who are willing to acknowledge God. This is not always an easy lesson to learn and to accept. It is an attitude that we need to develop if we are to reflect a loving God in our own lives.
Saint Paul, in what we heard, also suggests a development of our way of thinking not only in our relations with God but also with regard to the world around us. In this respect we are to ask ourselves what is really important to us in life. A limited vision suggests – eat, drink an be merry for tomorrow we may die. Paul counters by saying that this kind of world is fleeting and will quickly pass away. The instant gratification approach which he describes, however, is presented to us in many different ways today. But if we truly understand ourselves and what we are as part of God’s creation and what value all of humanity possess because of the redeeming actions of Jesus Christ, then we would realize how the acknowledgment of God and a relationship is to affect our way of living. By comparison, fleeting pleasure are virtually meaningless.
Another insight is given by the manner which Saint Mark records the call made to the followers of Jesus. They were to transform their way of life as fishermen in a way that would have deep significance. This offers us the encouragement to go beyond the limited vision of “our ways” and incorporate the possibilities of “God’s ways.” How can God’s plan of being known in our lives be revealed in in what we might consider the ordinariness of our respective lives. So much of the Gospel message urges this thinking on us.
Often, like Jonah, we like to fit God into the box of our categories, of our own limits. We can limit the relationship with God to fulfilling obligations or having our needs met. We fail to realize that what God seeks with us is a deep, rich relationship which can transforms every aspect of our lives. Do we have the courage exhibited by those who followed Jesus who left behind the limitations of what had been before to allow ourselves to be transformed in such ways that those who know us and experience us come into contact with a truly good and gracious God?