Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Angry unto death

The passage that I had to read at Mass last night was from Jonah, one of the Old Testament books, and one that I had not read before. Like everybody, I knew OF Jonah and the whale - just not first hand. I read the book tonight - it's very short - in an effort to better understand the portion I read out. The story is very good, and it has a terrific sense of humour. Synopsis: Jonah is commanded by God to tell the infamous city of Nineveh to repent of its evil ways. Jonah refuses and tries to run away from Israel to Spain. On the way the sea is stormy and the sailors, learning of his disobedience to God, throw him overboard and he is then - famously - swallowed up by a huge fish. After repenting, and agreeing to do as he has been told, Jonah is spit up by the fish. He walks through the huge city and tells them to repent. To his shock and horror, the Assyrians do repent. To his great dismay, God spares them. Jonah is so disillusioned that he asks God to end his life. Jonah then waits to see if God will either destroy Nineveh or end his own life. Chapter Four then brings it all together:
And the Lord God prepared an ivy, and it came up over the head of Jonas, to be a shadow over his head, and to cover him (for he was fatigued), and Jonas was exceeding glad of the ivy. But God prepared a worm, when the morning arose on the following day: and it struck the ivy and it withered. And when the sun was risen, the Lord commanded a hot and burning wind: and the sun beat upon the head of Jonas, and he broiled with the heat: and he desired for his soul that he might die, and said: It is better for me to die than to live. And the Lord said to Jonas: Dost thou think thou hast reason to be angry, for the ivy? And he said: I am angry with reason even unto death. And the Lord said: Thou art grieved for the ivy, for which thou hast not laboured, nor made it to grow, which in one night came up, and in one night perished. And shall not I spare Ninive, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons that know not how to distinguish between their right hand and their left, and many beasts?
It's probably not historically accurate, but so what? The reluctant prophet doing God's work despite his wishes and efforts certainly has something true to tell us, don't you think?

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