Jonah Day 5 // You Can't Take Your Sin Back to the Shore

Jonah 1:11-15

Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Take me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring the ship back to land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. Therefore they cried to the Lord, “We beg you, O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood; for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” So they took up Jonah and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging.

When I think of mercy - me to my neighbor, me to my friends - I think of feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.” Of coursing, giving alms to the poor, too (CCC 2447). That is, the first thing that comes to mind are the corporal works of mercy.

If I do manage to think of any spiritual works of mercy, I think of forgiveness and bearing wrongs patiently. Like the crew of this ship.

Jonah’s sin caused a huge storm! And the ship’s crew has suffered because of it. They were forced to throw their material possessions overboard and, when that didn’t work, they must have thought they were going to die!  They had every right to be angry with Jonah. Indeed, I’d be tempted to throw him overboard, even before he volunteered.

But look at what the crew does. When Jonah tells them they need to throw him into the sea, they refuse. Rather, they attempt to row him back to shore. They want to get him back to dry land. Except, it’s not possible. The waves rise up again, even stronger, and the men are forced to abandon their mission.

Not all wrongs are meant to be born patiently.

And just because we forgive the wrongs done against us, doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences.

This shouldn’t come as any surprise to us. Are we the same Catholics who go into the confessional with our sins piled high, and come out, forgiven but holding penance instead.  Why is it any difference when dealing with our fellow man?

Venerable Bishop Sheen knew this when he said, “If mercy meant the forgiveness of all faults without retribution and without justice, it would end in a multiplication of wrongs. Mercy is for those who will not abuse it, and no man will abuse it who already started to make the wrong right, as justice demands. What some today call mercy is not mercy at all, but a feather-bed for those who fall from justice; and thus they multiply guilt and evil by supplying such mattresses. To become the object of mercy is not the same as to got scot-free, for as the word of God says: “Whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth.” [From Way to Happiness by Fulton J. Sheen (Garden City Books, 1949)].

Study Questions

Why do you think the men were so willing to risk their lives for a man who brought such trouble with him? Would you have done the same?

Sheen says that mercy without justice is sentimentality and that justice without mercy is severity. Do you agree or disagree with this statement?