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  • Bill Miller

Scripture Reflection, January 21, 2024, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 Mark 1:14-20

Even little children in Sunday school know and are fascinated by the story of Jonah and the whale. Because it grabs the imagination we think we know the whole story, even though this is the only time in the three-year cycle of scripture readings that we read from the book of Jonah. It turns out there were some important points that I missed. Maybe, you did too.

I knew that God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach repentance to its inhabitants. I remembered that he didn't want to go and tried to avoid the errand, hence,… the boat and the “big fish.” But I thought Jonah was afraid the Ninevites would hurt him. Jonah was actually afraid that the Ninevites would listen to him and repent and that their change of heart would move God to forgiveness!

Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, a violent warrior nation that was greatly feared. Nobody liked the Assyrians, and Jonah would have loved God to punish them. He must've been surprised when after one day of hearing him preach, the people of Nineveh proclaimed a fast and repented!

It turns out that God doesn't take sides… except the side of peace and justice… to do good and avoid evil.

It is a story "ripped from the headlines ". College campuses, social media postings… Everywhere we see people taking sides. “These people should be eliminated.” “Those people have no right to exist.” The enemy must be punished, and severely so.

The marketplace of ideas has become a battleground in our own country, too. And even violence is not ruled out as a way to oppose those with whom we disagree. If you hear that you should "fight like Hell “, you can be sure that it is not God's voice.

In today's gospel we see Peter and Andrew, James and John called to preach. To change hearts not by violence or the threat of violence but by belief in the kingdom of God, a kingdom of peace and justice.

That is God's side. And our call, too.

by: Pat Schnee

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