The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water.
Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.” When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translation
Today’s first reading is a satire, a commentary on a society that uses a witty irony to make its point. But not a Juvenalian satire, that ridiculing, sarcastic, fun-for-fun’s sake attack; instead a gentler, cleverly humorous, more adult Horatian satire, whose purpose is to teach. Not “South Park” but “The Simpsons’”.
The Book of Jonah meant to turn the Israelites back towards a reverential fear of the Lord while avoiding in them any feelings of moral superiority. The short mock-history presents a blundering prophet who approves of neither the Lord’s methods nor his mercy to one of the Jews’ historical enemies, the Assyrians. If even they could turn from their evil ways, what is expected from God’s chosen people?
When reviewing that iconic image from two weeks ago of Pope Francis pulling up in a small gray Fiat to the gates of the White House, in front of more than ten thousand invited guests, Marine Corps Band playing in the background—shouldn’t we also ask ourselves what lesson he was teaching us about what is to be at the center of our own lives?
—Gregory Ostdiek, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic teaching science to inquiring minds at Loyola Academy, Wilmette, IL.
Dear Lord, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve:
to give and not count the cost, to fight and not heed the wounds,
to toil and not seek for rest, to labor and not ask for any reward—
but that of knowing I do your will.
—St. Ignatius LoyolaPlease share the Good Word with your friends!