Jon 3:1-10; Ps 130:1-8; Lk 10:38-42
It is the LORD’s kindness and plenteous redemption that provides Jonah with special transport to the city of Nineveh. The LORD, creator of heaven and earth, has nothing less than mercy for the city full of sin. If this is the way God treats pagans, why do we hesitate for an instant? Why do we not cry out daily, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! LORD, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication.”
As the Psalm continues to reveal, the LORD not only hears our deepest cries; the LORD does not mark our iniquities. God does not hold a grudge. Unlike us, the LORD has a great heart and is ready to forgive whenever we turn to him in our heart. Indeed, we have every confidence to wait for his tender mercy and gracious kindness. Jonah knew this about the LORD, and in his less than great heart he resented the command to preach repentance to the enemies of Israel in Nineveh. Though he did not agree with the message, he was obedient and preached the word of the LORD to the sinful city. The King heard his enemy speak a word of warning, and he listened and repented. In today’s gospel, Saint Luke provides us with a model of one who sat at the Master’s feet and listened intently. Perhaps we would do well to wait and to listen to the LORD at this Liturgy.
The Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time because the first time, he rejected the command of God. Even though this prophet was disobedient, the LORD had mercy upon him and spoke to him a second time. This time Jonah heard and obeyed. The LORD commanded him to reveal his justice and mercy to the enemies of Israel. Nineveh had ignored the Word of the Lord revealed in God’s marvelous deeds of liberating his people from slavery in Egypt. Even in their exile, not all the people of Israel had given up on God, and the faithful remnant continued to obey and worship God. Despite this revelation, the city of Nineveh continued to worship gods who demanded child sacrifice and temple prostitution. Such injustice and self-destructive behavior the LORD detests. However, the LORD did not give up on Nineveh in their wickedness. Rather, the LORD sent his prophet Jonah to summon them to repentance. In the midst of their own purification in exile, the LORD calls Jonah to proclaim that the mercy God has shown to Israel is the mercy he intends to show to all people, even Israel’s enemies. The great irony here is that even though God had to speak a second time to Jonah, the King of Nineveh only had to hear the LORD’s warning once, and he and his whole city repented. Even the animals were commanded to fast. Even the animals were “obedient” at the first word of warning. Although, Jonah obeyed still his heart was not in the mission. We will hear more about his change of heart as the Word of God is proclaimed in our Liturgy.
The Lord Jesus stopped in to visit with his friends, Lazareth, Martha, and Mary. During the time of preparation for the evening meal, Martha expresses some resentment, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” Such resentment is not unfamiliar. It sounds a bit like the resentment that Jonah felt in his reluctant obedience to the second Word of the Lord. Israel and her prophet, Jonah, resented that the Lord would even consider warning Nineveh about the impending doom that would come to them if they did not change their ways. This is the way of our small hearts. We are not great of heart, and the LORD has to continue to summon us to greatness. As he told Martha in today’s gospel, so he reminds us today, “There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” The only thing we need to serve the LORD is our hearts. Like Mary we need only sit at his feet and let him fill and expand our hearts with the love of God. When we surrender our total attention to him and to his word then we will grow to be like Our Father in heaven. Then we will be great of heart, and we will reveal his mercy to us as his mercy to all his children. It is the Holy Spirit on the breath of the Lord Jesus who transforms us in this Liturgy. We become more than reluctant prophets or resentful servants. We become gracious and merciful, slow to anger and great of heart.