Our Lady of the Rosary (Memorial)
The men offered sacrifice and made vows to [the Lord].
Prayer, sacrifice, acceptance of God’s will—these sound like the actions of pious men, don’t they? Amazingly, these acts of faith in the “God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land,” come not from a God-fearing Israelite but from pagan sailors (Jonah 1:9).
This is only one example of the irony and surprising reversals that make up the story told in the Book of Jonah. Time and again, unbelievers demonstrate true faith and heartfelt repentance, while Jonah spends his energy running from God or fighting his plan. For example, the sailors wake Jonah and beg him to pray during the storm, and the pagan king of Assyria orders his subjects to fast and turn from sin. And when God reveals his salvation, everyone is happy—except for Jonah!
Time after time, Jonah sets limits on God’s actions and the reach of his mercy, only to be shown how limitless it really is. Though it is included in the collection of the prophetic books, Jonah is, at its heart, a parable that corrects the widespread notion that God only cares about his chosen nation, Israel.
Clearly, God’s vision is far greater than Jonah’s narrow viewpoint. God wants every human being on earth to receive his salvation and new life, not just his special people, Israel. Even when poor Jonah misses the point, God patiently works to expand his heart. He pursues Jonah even while he is fleeing; he saves his life and gives him a second chance. And he tries to teach him why he was so merciful toward the Ninevites.
Jonah can show us the difference between our narrow viewpoint and God’s expansive vision. We can’t let our ideas of who is acceptable and who isn’t overshadow our grasp of God’s desire to restore every sinner. As often as we, like Jonah, try to limit God’s mercy, that’s how often he extends it—frequently to the very people we think don’t deserve it. That’s the point: we all need mercy, and God offers it especially to those most in need. May we all allow God to stretch our expectations and to expand our vision!
“Father, thank you for your far-reaching love. Broaden my vision, and help me extend your mercy to everyone I meet.”
(Psalm) Jonah 2:3-5, 8
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