“The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.”
The Lord came to Jonah with a job to do. Obviously, Jonah was less than thrilled with the assignment. Go to Nineveh, tell them to repent, or I the Lord will destroy them. Jonah’s response: run away.
Jonah knew why the Lord wanted him to go to Nineveh. The Ninevites had been sinning greatly and Jonah knew it. In his his heart he believed that they deserved to be destroyed, but he also knew that if he went to them there would be a good chance they would repent and the Lord would forgive them, and in Jonah’s mind they didn’t deserve mercy – Kill ‘em all! He had visions of Sodom and Gomorrah and burning sulphur raining down.
Jonah had to go through the belly of the whale, but in the end he does as the Lord had asked him. He’s still not happy about it – Jonah the petulant prophet – but whether he liked it or not, he accomplished what the Lord commanded.
Now consider Joseph who we celebrate today. He was pledged to be married to Mary, but before the wedding he discovers that she is pregnant. He thinks adultery, so he decides to quietly break off the engagement. It is then that he has a dream where an angel of the Lord appears to him and says, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
When he woke up, Joseph looked to Heaven and shouted at God, “Are you smokin’ crack?” And ran away. No, that’s not quite how it went. Scripture says, “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”
My good friend, Thomas à Kempis, that 14th century monk wrote, “The more humble and obedient to God a man is, the more wise and at peace he will be in all that he does.” The comparison of Jonah and Joseph would seem to prove this.
Discerning the will of God, understanding those things he is calling us to do, is not always as clear as it was for Jonah and Joseph. It can take time, but once it has been determined, we are called to positively respond without delay as Joseph did. We are called to be obedient.
That word “obedient” is not so popular these days. We want to do what we want without interference. With God, through freewill, we have the option to say, “No.” However, by saying “No” to God, we miss the opportunity to be blessed by God and to serve His greater purpose. In addition, in case you didn’t know, Jonah’s situation proves whether you like it or not, God’s will is going to be accomplished. Jonah did go and preach to the Ninevites, they did repent, and God did save them.
In our Gospel, after Joseph and Mary found Jesus and brought him home, the scripture said, “Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” That call to obedience is one that is placed on all of our lives, including Jesus’, and it is a call that we respond to as Jesus did and as Joseph, his earthly father, did.