In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit-One God, Amen.
The Fast of Nineveh (Tsome Ninewe)
The teacher told his elementary students, “I don’t want any of you to ever be afraid of going into the sea because there is no sea creatures that can swallow you whole”.
A little girl raised her hand and said, “I learned in church that a great fish swallowed Jonah whole”.
Teacher scoffed at that and said, “that’s impossible that could never happen”.
The little girl said, “When I get to heaven I’ll ask Jonah myself and find out if it was true”.
The teacher replied, “What if Jonah didn’t go to heaven?”
The little girl said, “I know he did! but “if he didn’t, then you can ask him”
Have you ever wanted to run away from something, someone or life? Do you remember moments where you avoided God’s clear call to you; and you decided to do nothing about it or did the opposite? Have you ever been in a position where you wanted to say something to someone and yet, you couldn’t? Or have you ignored telling someone what God wanted you to tell/truth/? This is a story of God’s Prophet, Jonah. One time God called Jonah and said: “ Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me." God has limits where He says enough is enough. He had enough of their rebelliousness. He sends His messenger, Jonah, like He sends us His message through many ways, to bring them to the light i.e Him. However, Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” Jonah made a conscious decision to run and not to listen to the call of God. He ran away from [his] responsibility. What about us!? Are we running to or away from God? How many of us are still obeying God’s call? Or are we only heeding His call when it matches our desire?
We have heard Jonah’s story, again and again, every year and yet we are still living the same “spiritual life” we have last year without confession, Holy communion or growing spiritually. We are always concerned justly about those who have run from the church visibly; but what about us who live in the church. One needs to know that a person not acting on what he knows to be true is as much disobedient as the person who chooses running away from God’s presence. Both have disobeyed God’s command irrespective of their physical presence. Holy Liturgy reminds us “ Hallelujah if there be any one of the faithful that has entered the church ... has not heard the Holy Scriptures and has not waited until they finish the prayer of the Mass...has not received the Holy Communion, let him be driven out of the church, for he has violated the law of God, and disdained to stand before the heavenly King”.
Jonah went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish and he bought a ticket. He made a deliberate and calculated decision. This reminds me of a beautiful story about a young son who took his inheritance and decided to go along way away from his Father, home and brothers to a distant country to live/chase/ his dream to live up with drink, party, song, and drug. How many of our brothers/ sisters are smoking hookah, drug, or do things for the sake of satisfaction or/and having experience. One thing is certain, Satan will always find a way to provide us a transportation for those who run away from God. When we run from God, we will always find a ship. The devil will make sure that the sailing is on time too. The path away from God is always fast and downhill. When you go away from God, you never get the place where you wanted to go and yet you pay the fare with your emotional, body and soul. On the contrary, When you run towards God, you reach the place fast and He pays the price with His Grace and Mercy.
To make the story short, when Jonah boarded the ship, the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea so that the ship was about to break. When you run away from God, He will catch up with you and make your life become very stormy so as to turn you towards an eternal life/Him. No one can hide from God. The Psalmist reminds us (139:7-10), “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me.” We are so precious to God that He will never let us go without fighting, be it in storm, sickness, or discontent, so as to bring us to Him. One important thing we shouldn’t miss here is that when Jonah ran away and boarded the ship, the people on the ship had also suffered. When we make a bad choice and want to live that life with dedication, others [family, friends, and society] around us also face hardship as well. [Ask some of our Fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters who has lost their kids and brethren to Drug and prison].
In Summary, all of us have tried at some time or another - some in big ways and some in small ways- to get away from God’s will. However, even if we consciously leave our God and His church like the prodigal son and Jonah, to chase our dream and satisfaction, Our Heavenly Father is always ahead of us, longing for and anticipating our return. Let us return to God, Bretherens!!!
O! Lord, I acknowledge how far You went to bring me to life. I remember Your Mercy when my running away turned to a nightmare! You were always there to comfort and guide me. It always gives me a comfort knowing that when I thought I left you behind, you are always there ahead of me welcoming me to YOUR HOME.
O, Lord!, Help me, to do your will. Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love.
O, Virgin Mary! Mother of God, remind Him of mercy and not destruction. Remind Him of compassion and not anger.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.
May the prayer of Our Holy Mother be with all of us.