THE LENT OF JONAH
The Antiochean tradition attaches great significance to the Lent of
Jonah, which is followed by the Sunday of the departed priests and
the Sunday of All Souls before we enter the Great Lent.
Jonah of the Lent is different from the other two persons of the same
name referred to in the Bible, the father of Simon Peter and the
prophet mentioned in 2 Kings 14: 25. Jonah is referred to as one of
the minor prophets, but the scholars are not unanimous in their views
on either the "prophet" or the book.Be that as it may let us
concentrate on the message which the Lent of Jonah conveys.
The first point to notice is that the book teaches the message that
God is not an exclusive possesssion of the Jews. This is the same
message that is implied in Matthew 4: 15,16. Jonah is the symbol of
Israel, the Israel which cannot accept that those employed in the
Eleventh Hour get the same wages as those who have been toiling from
dawn.However God does not abandon Jonah even if he boards the ship to
Tarsus instead of the one to Nineveh. Man has no right to block God's
mercy, be it to Nineveh, or to Jonah himself.
Secondly Jonah proves that God is on the side of Pluralism as against
Particularism.This again amounts to conceding to God the right to
Thirdly let us recall the message arising from today's readings. The
reading from the Acts bring back memories of the experience on the
Road to Damascus. Here the messenger, Saul, was not running away from
his errand. On the other hand he was trying to run it
meticulously.However he did not know that he was moving against God's
plan for him. Therefore God intervened directly, as through the storm
and the whale in the case of Jonah. Unlike Jonah who grieved even
after the ship and whale experience Saul willingly surrendered
himself to be made Paul. Jonah had preached halfheartedly as
evidenced by his dialogue later, but Paul did it enthusiastically as
we see from the Pauline Reading of the day(2 Corinthians 4(?, I am
typing from memory after returning from church!)). The Gospel is the
clear pathgiver in the circumstances for the Jonahs and the Sauls
that we are.In Mark we hear about the response of the early disciples
who left their entire world behind to follow an unknown carpenter.
Something told them that here was a carpenter who could build boats
for them to make them fishers of men. The Church seems to teach that
whether we are like Jonah who rebelled or Saul who went against the
Will of God albeit unknowingly God is out to rescue us, Jesus in
search of Peters and Andrews and Jameses and Johns, and that is the
promise and that is where hope finds its origin.
The crux of the message is that we shall not be judgemental in our
approach. Let us concentrate on this aspect this week to eliminate
the tendency in us to judge others by our standards. Let God judge.
Let us become conduits of his mercy and compassion, and remove from
our personality whatever blocks and barricades we have erected
knowingly or unknowingly which go block God's unending compassion.
TOTUS TUUS MARIA
D. Babu Paul