Today we join Jonah in the belly of the fish.
He’s already praying in verse 1. In his darkest moment, when all looks lost, Jonah doesn’t fail to look to God and to count on Divine Mercy.
I’ve had my share of “dark nights.” Or at least shadowy ones. Moments of loneliness, moments where I feel lost, moments of complete and utter failure. It feels natural enough to me to call out to God in these times. My heart draws near because that’s where I find my refuge.
But often times, I’m not like that. It’s not nearly so dramatic. Or good.
Generally, my life is more ordinary than dramatic. It’s so ordinary, that I often miss the little gods I set up for myself throughout the day. There is the cell phone, of course. Everybody talks about that. But also there is the book I am reading, or the house I want to clean, or even my family. Truthfully, I elevate any number of things above their rightful place.
I have a million little vanities I cling to, as verse 8 mentions, and I forsake my true loyalty.
The Douay Rheims version of the Bible puts it a little more clearly,
“I forsook my own mercy.”
Indeed! I cling to vanities. I think on them and pursue them with ardor, and often times that means I turn my back - even if accidentally - on my true Love. To paraphrase - and personalize - St. Jerome, I cling to my vanity as if I cherish it, thinking I have found some kind of treasure. And when I do that, I forsake mercy.
Not that mercy isn’t available to me. But it is I who turn my back on Mercy. Indeed, mercy is God’s love. It doesn’t - it can’t - turn its back on us, says St. Jerome, nor does it curse us.
Mercy is patient. It “waits for us to return.”
Thank God for his mercy!
What are some of the vanities - or little idols - you have erected in your own life? Have you turned your back on mercy? Is there something specific - maybe even small - that you think God is asking you to give up? Has this something become an idol for you? Can you give it up?
St. Jerome makes note that Jonah is not writing this with an air of condemnation. Are you tempted to notice all of the vanities that other people erect in their own lives?
Do you forget to extend the same mercy God shows to you, to others? Is there a difference between judging the belief system of a person, or the actions of a person and not the person himself?
Is it possible to recognize the error of a person and still keep our hearts open to them, to love them?
How might this look in real life?
No doubt, after contemplating God’s mercy in our lives, we’ll feel like Jonah and will
“with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you.”