3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time(B)
January 22, 2012
Today’s readings are a story of reversals. The events reported are counter-intuitive and, at least for the people of Jonah’s days, probably run counter to logic and common sense expectations. First, the Lord calls a nation other than Israel to repentance – Nineveh – a hated nemesis of Israel, being the capital of the empire of Assyria at some point. Second, Jonah, the reluctant bearer of bad or good news, depending on what is one’s perspective and stance, did not just do his job partially, but actually hemmed and hawed, and dragged his feet, unwilling and unready to do the unpopular job for anyone who had reason to believe his words would fall on deaf ears, if not followed by anger and hatred against him.
In other words, Jonah probably thought it was an exercise in futility. More than that, he probably opined that it was a hopeless case – something that his feeble and reluctant warnings in the first place would not even create a dent in. The world then that he knew, in its form and fashion then, was, at least for him, not worth saving, not worth spending time for, and wasting energy and passion for.
Jonah is representative of me … of many of my readers … of many of my countrymen. The world that I know, the world in its current, present form is awash in what Robinson (2004) has called the “contours of hopelessness.” The landscape of our lives now, she says, is dotted with hopelessness, and one of the features or contours of this hopelessness is precisely what I have been lamenting since 1987, right after we thought we had replaced the dirty, corrupt-laden, and unjust tyranny of the much hated (then) President of more than 20 years!
And I refer to the culture of mass manipulation that accrues from this contemporary society’s love affair with the so-called “media moment” that keeps us all glued to an information glut, an information overdose, along with an ideologically- and - often, politically biased, reporting or ‘creating’ of events that are all designed towards establishing our own brand of truth. Postmodernity’s most famous victim, as we all know, is the murder of objective, lasting, truth.
Truth now is prostituted to convenience, to political parties, to who offers the highest bid, as even surveys now can be manipulated, depending on who carries the pocket book right behind people who hide behind the thin veneer of objectivity.
But I am digressing … My reflection was focused on Jonah, who was as focused on his misfortune, as he was bent on disobeying the strict orders of the Lord.
And what was this order all about?
It was about God who wills the salvation even of people who hate His very own people. It was about the compassion of God that extends beyond the borders of fellow-feeling, and narrow party affiliations. It was about the Good News that our God is famous for – His will and overriding desire to save even those whom we think are beyond salvation.
I confess I am a Jonah, not once, not twice, not thrice, but so many times over. I lost verve. I lost courage. I lost hope for this seemingly – pardon the term – God-forsaken country of crooks, and vindictive leaders, and people who support this or that personality when the pickings are ripe, but who abandon the very same hands that fed them while that person was in power. I confess I am tempted so many times to give up fighting for a cause that so many interpret as mere partisanship and bias – for this is what people breathe in and out – from a hopelessly biased mainstream media, one of which networks stand to gain if the present dispensation is propped up, and the charade of the fight for justice for their declared Knight in shining armor is sustained – until the next elections.
I am, have been, and probably will be a Jonah, for the many days to come. Like Jonah, I have been cynical … I have doubted that things would ever get better before they got worse. Like Jonah, I refuse to go … I refuse to believe … I refuse to hold fast to hope, to faith, and to love …
Today, I feel convicted. Today, I feel shamed … not by Jonah, but by those of us who continue to plod on, hope on, and believe … in what?
In miracles, for one. Like I said in the first paragraph, today is a day of reversals. Nineveh was roused to repentance, even if Jonah went only a third of the way and hied off to his comfort zone, going the opposite way, openly defying the command of the Lord. Nineveh believed him. They fasted. They prayed, and put on sackcloth.
I call on my fellow believers. Believe what Jonah says, if not me. Believe what St. Paul reminds us. There is a sense of urgency. There is something we all need to be doing, right here, right now, “for the world, in its present form, is fast drifting away!” “I tell you brothers and sisters, the time is running out!”
The world, in its present form, is fast drifting away. What an inspired message! I never thought of it in this light before. Yes, the world now, in its present form, filled with the contours of hopelessness, is fast drifting away! This is not God’s will that we should remain cooped up in our lack of courage and hope, and get defeated by a world that seems to take the upper hand all the time, populated by sinners like you and me, who go patently against the will of the Lord, who tells us to go this way, and we all go the opposite way!
Even Jesus came from a world, then, filled with its own contours of hopelessness. The good man, John the Baptist, who finally had a message to tell the corrupt world of Herod and cohorts, was put in jail … sans benefit of trial, sans impeachment process, but summary declaration of guilt by the information machinery of his times.
But that was the time when God became more active. That was the time when “Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the Gospel of God: This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
He did not have the time to sulk. He did not do a Jonah, like I do, and refuse to do His Father’s will. He went right to work. He had an urgent message to give to a world that went beyond Israel and Nineveh, and the far corners of the earth.
He now has the same message for me – a forlorn and forsaken Jonah copy-cat, who has lost steam and lost more than courage, but all hope for a country that God so loves, a people that God so blesses, and keeps close to His heart, no matter what, for after all, the world, in its present form, is fast drifting away!