So Jonah got a do-over. And he got up and preached to Nineveh. He told them the truth. And the truth set them free. Quite literally.
So we saw yesterday how Jonah learned his lesson, and when God called him the second time he got up and went. This could not have been easy for Jonah to do, even after having gone through the ordeal he just went through.
Nineveh, after all, was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and no friend of the Israelites. Add to that a kind of nationalism that St. Jerome ascribes to Jonah - and this trek had to be a pilgrimage of the worst kind.
But he did go. And when there, he preached the truth according to what God asked him to: warning the Ninevite’s they’d be overthrown if they didn’t repent.
This is just plain old fashioned crazy talk. Why would a large and powerful city like Nineveh listen to some crazy Hebrew wandering for a day through their town? But Jonah spoke the truth nonetheless.
As Christians, we’re not unlike Jonah. That is, we’re a part of his divine plan. It’s not just one prophet anymore walking around Nineveh. It’s a whole lot of Christians walking around the Western world. And we’ve got a whole lotta ‘splainin to do. The truths we carry with us - especially as Catholics - aren’t necessarily easy. They aren’t going to win us popularity contests. And yet, part of mercy is truth telling.
Indeed, Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6). And, thanks be to God, the Truth will set us free. Our message, like Jonah’s, is one of freedom. Christian freedom. A truth that allows us to be more fully human by helping us to become more “fully alive.”
So what then? Should we walk around our modern day Nineveh’s handing out tracts and warning of the end of days? Do we stand on the street corner and harangue passer-by’s? No. Rather, our Nineveh is our family, our neighbors, our towns. It is comprised of the relationships we form with the very real people we meet every day.
And as for the truth-telling, Bishop Robert Barron advises us this:
“Because the Lord names sin clearly and then reaches out in love, the discipline of Christian truth-telling must be this: even true speech, offered in a spirit of retribution and hatred, is to be avoided because it undermines itself, becoming spiritually false in the very act of utterance…Christian speech is true, not only to its object, but to itself only when it is realized in love.” (The Strangest Way. p. 107)
It comes down, once again, to love in action. That marvelous and wondrous act of the God of the universe pursuing his creation. And his creation reaching out to others in that same charity.Will it be easy?
My guess is no. It wasn’t easy for Jonah, so I don’t expect it will be easy for us. Of course, the Christian path was never promised to be easy - only a “light yoke.” As you move through your own day, consider how much you are willing to help your neighbors, your friends, your family.
1.Before you speak truth to them, ask yourself how much you are willing to help lift their burden?
2.If not, then is the truth really realized in love?