Have you ever been sure of the Lord’s call in your life and it just terrified you? I have. And for those of us who have been in this position, we can perhaps understand Jonah’s reaction in today’s first reading. He had been called by the Lord to preach to the people in Nineveh. And let’s be clear about this: the people of Nineveh were unspeakably evil and had long been persecuting the people of Israel. And so for Jonah, this call was a bit like being called to preach to the people of ISIS or something like that. Not only did Jonah fear for his life in going to them, but, quite frankly, he also could not possibly care less if they repented and God had mercy on them.
But it’s a little hard to run away from God. He always catches up with you sooner or later. If that weren’t true, I wouldn’t be standing here today, I can tell you that! It would certainly be easier for us Jonahs if we would just give in to God’s will at the beginning and not have to do all this running. But sometimes the human heart just isn’t ready for radical change.
That was true of the scholar of the law in today’s Gospel reading. I think his question is more about testing Jesus than really wanting to be converted, but even so, he can’t help but get caught up in Jesus’ teaching. The question is, is he ready to “go and do likewise?” The reading ends before he can make that decision, but the implication is that it will be very hard for him to really love his neighbor in the same way that the good Samaritan loved the robbery victim.
And so those of us who look a lot like Jonah or the scholar of the law today, need to pray for softening of our hardened hearts. Will it take three days in the belly of a big fish for us to finally give in to God’s will? Or can we just give in and trust?