Jonah: A Reluctant Missionary

Sometimes the readings for Mass are very “providential”: they suit our need here and now, as we celebrate the Special Mission Month—whatever that may mean.

The first three days of this week (7 – 12, October) we are reading Jonah. During their stay in Babylon, the Jews met some wonderful non-Jews. One of them eventually becomes the anointed of the Lord (messiah, Is 45.1) for them, who not only allows the exiles to return home, but also provides financial assistance for rebuilding Jerusalem and its temple, and protection while they are at work. Now the Jews face a new theological problem: What is the place of non-Jews in God’s design. A creative theologian narrates a wonderful story to deal with this question: the book Jonas was written between 400 – 200 B.C. Jonah, a very traditional Jew, is asked by God to go to a ‘pagan’ people. He believes that it is a mission that is doomed to fail: they have no chance of salvation. He is devoured by a large fish. The fish instinctively feels that she is about to devour some dangerous stuff, but she is hungry and so devours it without any bite, but with one gulp. But soon she feels uncomfortable, and she vomits him, and thus is saved from food-poisoning.

Jonah is symbolic of us, who are not open to any fresh theological thinking. We have a ‘virgin’ mind, not ‘penetrated’ by any new ideas. By refusing to go to the non-Jews, Jonah lands in a dark room, with absolutely no light, and very little air: the foul-smelling gas in the belly of the fish!

Subhash Anand
St Paul’s School, Bhupalpura, Udaipur