And they said to one another,
“Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.”
So they cast lots, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And from where do you come? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “What is this that you have done! For the men knew that he was fleeing from the present of the Lord, because he had told them.
I walked into the kitchen to start preparing dinner. One of my children was already there, making a treat for later in the evening. Dinner required the use of a can opener, and our can opener is located in a large drawer. The drawer is large enough, but the utensils that crowd it are many. The can opener, the rolling pin, the measuring spoons, the measuring cups. You get the picture.
So there I was, walking up to the drawer to pull out the can opener when I notice that the two children whispering and crowding and the drawer suddenly part like the red sea, one on either side of me. Clearly, something was wrong. And suddenly, the quiet became very loud!
“What,” I asked, “on earth are you doing?”
Turns out, the drawer was stuck closed. Something jammed inside, preventing the drawer from opening. The kids thought it was their fault and so were trying to hide it from me, afraid of the lecture about how they really need to be a little more careful when operating in the kitchen.
And it strikes me that this is Jonah. Jonah shut the kitchen drawer and now it can’t be opened. So he’s gone off and tried to hide it.
But in this passage, the truth is coming out. Not only is the storm that is ravaging the boat, but it turns out the crew is at its wits end. They have tried everything they can think of: they have prayed to their gods, they have thrown their material goods overboard. Now, they have cast lots and its Jonah who has come up guilty. Now, groggy from sleep they question him. “What,” they demand, “is this that you have done!”
It is right for our fellow man to ask what on earth we think we are doing! On the one hand we say we fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” And on the other, we jump into the sea to hide from him.
On the one hand we say we love the Lord our God with all our heart, and then we refuse to extend our hand in charity and give to the poor or console our neighbor.
It’s not enough to wake from the drunken stupor of sin. We must seek forgiveness. We must turn back to God.
And God, in his everlasting mercy, reaches down to us - just as he reached down to Jonah - and prods us to turn around; moving us toward repentance. And Yes, God pursues man that we might turn back to him.
Thinking again to Pope Francis hope that we might be merciful as the Father is merciful, is there a place in our life where we say we believe God but aren’t living it?
Is there a group of people that we associate with who have legitimate recourse to ask us, “if you believe in God, why are you doing this?” And if so, how might we reach back out to them?
Or would we prefer to be Jonah? Hiding from the God of the sea, in the sea?