God’s Will or Mine?

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Artwork depicting Jonah spit onto the shore by a large fish. Attained via Getty Images

Jonah is such a fascinating prophet. On the one hand, he appears to be more honest and direct than other prophets. When initially called by God, Jonah says no and literally walks in the opposite direction to get away from the prophetic responsibility (Jon 1:1-2). The other Hebrew prophets all try, in subtler ways, to avoid the divine call. In the end, all of them acquiesce to God’s request. 

On the other hand, Jonah also comes across as one of the pettier prophets. In today’s reading, we see this attitude on display when he complains that God has spared the city of Nineveh from foretold destruction. Both God and the reader are left with the same question: Why is Jonah so upset? 

Part of the answer may stem from Jonah’s own desires and wishes that contrast with those of God. It’s clear Jonah has his own agenda, his own sense of justice, his own idea of what God should do. And when he doesn’t get his way, he complains and even repeats that he’d rather die. How often do we find ourselves in a similar situation? We think we know best and sometimes tell God what should or shouldn’t be done. When it doesn’t go our way, we also complain. 

Jesus reminds us that when we pray, we should ask that God’s kingdom come and will be done. A lesson Jonah could have used and one we also need on a regular basis. 

© Liturgical Press.

Fr. Daniel Horan

Daniel P. Horan, OFM, is the Dun Scotus Chair of Spirituality at the Catholic Theological Union (Chicago). He is the author of several books, including Reading, Praying, Living Pope Francis’s Rejoice and Be Glad.

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