Tuesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Jonah 3:1-10; Luke 10:38-42)
Since no historical records exist of the mass conversion of Nineveh and since the story of Jonah drips with exaggeration, the book is taken as an instruction to later Jews rather than a chronicle of an actual event. It certainly indicates God’s will that other peoples be saved. It also warns against prejudice.
Nineveh’s complete repentance is seen in the way both king and people change their hearts. This sense is punctuated by dressing the animals in sackcloth. Given that every society has some backsliders, Jews would have marveled to hear how thorough the conversion of their feared neighbors to the northeast was. These were the same barbarians who had ravaged their ancestors. Perhaps, the Jews could conclude, they are not as bad as they seemed.
The Book of Jonah is instructive to us as well. It tells us not to write any people or any person off as beyond salvation. God can work wonders. Those whom we may regard as despicable may surpass us in rendering true worship to God.