Wednesday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Jonah 4:1-11; Luke 11:1-4)
If we haven’t heard the words ourselves, we certainly have heard them spoken to others. A father or, at least, a person with power threatens a subordinate who did something wrong. He says, “I’m going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget.” In today’s first reading God teaches Jonah a lesson that he is not likely to forget either.
Jonah has successfully converted the immense city of Nineveh to the Lord. But he is not proud, happy, or, much less, grateful for the accomplishment. He sulks because of his prejudice against Ninevites. God then teaches Jonah a lesson about bias. He gives the prophet a plant which brings him comfort. Then suddenly God takes the soothing plant away. Jonah is upset over the loss. God explains that as the plant was to Jonah, the people of Nineveh were to God. Because losing the people’s trust upset Him, the Lord sent Jonah to bring them back. The prophet should not hate Ninevites but love them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.
There are two faults with trying to teach another “a lesson that they will never forget.” First, the one teaching is putting herself or himself in the place of God. There are situations in which this is legitimate. However, the person who assumes that authority should take care that he or she has a right to it. Second and more importantly, God always acts out of love. He wants people to repent of their sins so that they may rejoice with Him. He does not act out of spite as does one intent on teaching another a lesson that will never be forgotten.