Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Jonah 4, 1-11

This made Jonah very indignant; he fell into a rage.

He prayed to Yahweh and said, 'Please, Yahweh, isn't this what I said would happen when I was still in my own country? That was why I first tried to flee to Tarshish, since I knew you were a tender, compassionate God, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, who relents about inflicting disaster.

So now, Yahweh, please take my life, for I might as well be dead as go on living.'

Yahweh replied, 'Are you right to be angry?'

Jonah then left the city and sat down to the east of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, to see what would happen to the city.

Yahweh God then ordained that a castor-oil plant should grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head and soothe his ill-humour; Jonah was delighted with the castor-oil plant.

But at dawn the next day, God ordained that a worm should attack the castor-oil plant -- and it withered.

Next, when the sun rose, God ordained that there should be a scorching east wind; the sun beat down so hard on Jonah's head that he was overcome and begged for death, saying, 'I might as well be dead as go on living.'

God said to Jonah, 'Are you right to be angry about the castor-oil plant?' He replied, 'I have every right to be angry, mortally angry!'

Yahweh replied, 'You are concerned for the castor-oil plant which has not cost you any effort and which you did not grow, which came up in a night and has perished in a night.

So why should I not be concerned for Nineveh, the great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, to say nothing of all the animals?'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

After the conversion of the people of Nineveh, made possible by Jonah’s preaching, the sacred author pauses to consider the prophet’s reaction. Jonah is upset. He is disappointed that the Lord did not carry out his threat to destroy the city. Through the parable of a castor bush, God calls Jonah to conversion too, inviting him to recognize and encounter God’s merciful face. In the end, Jonah did not want the Lord to change his mind. For him, as for many other believers, it is impossible that God would have mercy on a violent and wicked city. In Jonah’s opinion, and, we could say, in the opinion of the "prophets of misfortune," as John XIII called professional pessimists, it was impossible to rehabilitate the inhabitants of the city responsible for Israel’s destruction. And this is the paradox of the text we heard: while God repents of the evil he had threatened to do to Nineveh, Jonah instead is dismayed and saddened. This God is too merciful and benevolent! There are always too many people who, like Jonah, would prefer a God who punishes the wicked and, of course, blesses the just. This is the God that we often construct, too, obviously a God made in our own likeness and image. For people who are used to thinking of themselves as good and just, it is difficult to accept God’s compassion and mercy towards those who do evil. This is the same problem experienced by those who listened to Jesus when he spoke about loving one’s enemies (Mt 5:43-48), referring to a God who "makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous" (Mt 5:45). The first way to love is to be prophets and not to deny the Word of God to anyone, speaking to all so that God’s mercy may reach everyone and turn evil into good.