The Scandal of God’s Mercy

2024년 1월 21일

The Scandal of God’s Mercy

< Third Sunday in Ordinary Time >

              Jonah was a reluctant prophet. When God told him to go preach repentance to the citizens of the wicked city of Nineveh, Jonah ran in the opposite direction by hopping a ship to Spain. When a sudden storm threatened to sink the ship, all the sailors prayed to their various gods, but Jonah refused to pray. He confessed he was the reason for the storm. But Jonah didn’t even have the integrity to jump overboard himself. Rather, he told the sailors to throw him into the sea. As soon as he entered the water, the storm stopped and Jonah was swallowed by a “great fish”. (The Bible does not say it was a whale.) After three days in the belly of the fish, Jonah was so disagreeable, he gave the fish an upset stomach. The fish threw up and Jonah found himself on the very shores of Nineveh. Reluctantly he walked through the city, and spoke in the weakest voice, “Repent, sinners.” And surprise! Everyone repented, including the king! This is exactly what Jonah was afraid of. This is why he tried to run away, He knew if those wicked Ninevites heard the word of God, they’d repent and God, being merciful, would forgive them. Jonah didn’t want them to repent or be forgiven. He wanted God to make them suffer for their sins.

It’s interesting to note that the Ninevites didn’t repent because Jonah was an eloquent preacher. Far from it. But the word God does not depend on the speaking ability of the prophet. It is powerful all by itself. It is so powerful that it brings even the worst sinners to repentance. Through the readings in today’s liturgy, God is doing more than just calling us to repent. He’s calling us to follow and bring the word of God to others, especially those who need it most. Do not be scandalized by God’s mercy toward sinners. After all, it saved us.