by Fr. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace
Usually it seems God has one of three directions for us: “Come follow me”; “Stay with me” (and “Keep watch!”); or “Go and tell them …” The first is the call to discipleship; the second, a summons to accompaniment and companionship; the third, a push into prophetic ministry, to go forth and announce to the world of war and injustice God’s desire for peace and justice.
Jonah is the worst and the greatest of the prophets. The worst because he ran from God and God’s mission and as a consequence, landed in the belly of a whale. But after he came to his senses and fulfilled his assignment, he fell into an angry depression. He was resentful at God for saving the hated enemy, for being so compassionate to them, and sulked like a sullen teenager.
But he’s the greatest prophet because he’s the only prophet in the entire Bible who fulfilled his mission and converted all the people — in this case, the large city of Nineveh in the evil empire. No one ever did such a thing. He fulfilled God’s push into prophetic ministry.
I thought I’d offer a little summer series on the book of Jonah to help us reflect on how we are fulfilling God’s mission to speak the word of peace to people who live in the empire of war. I invite you to open your Bible and read along with me through the story of Jonah, “an extended parable” that “subverts normal expectation,” as Daniel Berrigan describes it. I think it applies to our own lives, our current predicament, the empire in our midst, our responsibility to speak out, and our own relationship with God.…