“When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.” (Misericordiae Vultus para 3)
Not too long ago I had seen a comment on a popular blog: You are such a testament to a beautiful Catholic life, this poster said.
The blogger has five children, lives on a small hobby farm, and by all blog appearances, celebrates life with intention. Her blog exudes joy: joy in her family, joy in her career, joy in the day to day ordinary of her life. Add to this, it seems that everything she does is done with an intentionality underlined with a spiritual purpose.
Except, this blogger isn’t Catholic.
Not only is she not Catholic - or any brand of Christian - but holds fiercely to the pagan influence recently on ascendance. She has eschewed the “Easter story” as something “some people believe” but not her family. A kind of nice story that comes with chocolate bunnies (organic locally made for her). No silly fairy tales for her family. Only yoga, and Reiki, and mother earth.
So when I read that comment - praising the “Catholicity” of this blogger - I should have responded with joy. I should have been happy that someone saw the beauty that had been lived out in truth. Even if the person doing the living didn’t recognize that truth.
Sadly, I felt a pang of remorse. Here was a person who claimed absolutely no interest in the God of the Universe providing a better example of what it means to be Catholic than many Catholics! Me too? How many other examples were there of instances where non-Christians, non-Catholics provided better examples of how to live as a Christian than me?
The shame burned me.
And it’s the shame that burns Jonah, too. He feels, not only the heat of the sun in a middle eastern desert, but the burning shame of a sorrow that Israel fails to do what Nineveh does. Namely, repent. And in response, Jonah is going to sit out in the middle of the desert and wait for either the destruction of Nineveh or his death. Whichever comes first.
And yet, God in his mercy, continues to protect Jonah. Even as he protected Nineveh. Even as he tried to protect Israel. Mercy is always at the ready. The question is - as it always is - how will we respond?
1.Have you ever been sorrowful at another person’s repentance? Jealous, maybe, that they were able to see and respond to something you weren’t?
The book of Jonah ends with a question: How will Jonah respond to God?
2.And, though we already know the answer, what will Israel’s response be to God?
3.Do we have to live with this question in our life? What keeps us from responding - always - “yes” to God?