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The Book of Jonah – Part 3

I met Fr. Victor about 15 years ago. I had gone as a speaker for a youth camp which was being conducted at a spiritual retreat centre, where Fr. Victor was the caretaker. He was well educated, gentle, always smiling and deeply committed to serve Christ. Over the years, he had the knack of calling me and praying with me exactly at the time I needed prayers the most. I saw him as an older brother in Christ.

One day, he called me and said that he would be leaving the country. I was really surprised! He had a good ministry here; he was well respected and had a lot of responsibilities. I was even more surprised to find where he was going. It was to a god-forsaken country – one of the poorest in the world, and going to a community which was the poorest among the poorest within that country! Then, unfortunately I lost touch with him for almost 5 years. I tried to get his telephone number several times, but couldn’t. And then one day, out of the blue, he contacted me when I needed prayer the most. I was in a hospital at that time, looking after my mother, who was on her death bed and those days had been emotionally draining for me. And then I hear Fr. Victor’s bubbly voice once again. He said he’s come for a short break to his home. When I explained my situation, he promised to come and pray for my mother. He came a few days later and prayed for my mother. In fact, he was the last one who prayed for her before she departed from this world.

But then I was curious to know what Fr. Victor has been doing all these years; where he had been; how his life had been; how the ministry among the poor was going…I had so many questions! So, he sat me down and started sharing his experiences. By the end of an hour and half of hearing him and his life stories, everyone had tears in their eyes (another 3 of our priests had joined me to hear Fr. Victor share) He shared about how they (he and some younger priests along with him) decided to work among the poorest of the poor; how they perceived the community’s greatest need – a good source of water; how they struggled to dig a well with their own hands and hand-made tools; how they got sick multiple times (with typhoid, corona & typhus fever; he couldn’t count the number of times he had fever, cough and cold!), that too without any proper medical facilities (no doctors, clinics or pharmacies); how they helped the community get electricity for the first time; how they started a small school for the little children; how they taught them proper farming, pottery, small businesses – in short how the community had been transformed by the love of Christ Jesus shown to them by these priests. And the result of all this? Crime rate, which was among the highest in the nation, plummeted. Sicknesses drastically came down. Gambling, alcoholism, and other addictions were nearly eradicated. Local Government started to take notice and provided support. Entire communities came to know how much God loved them and cared for them.

All of us had only one question on our mind. What motivated you Fr Victor to leave your comforts and go to a faraway land? What made you deliberately choose a life of difficulty and pain? What do you gain from doing all this?

His answer was simple. In his inevitable humble manner, with a smile on his face, Fr. Victor said, “Woe unto me if I don’t preach the gospel”. “How can I not be concerned for these poor people? Jesus died for them too”, he said. “Oh yes, there are many difficulties. But what is my lack of comfort as compared to the difficulties they face in their life. Should I not be concerned for them too?” I could not but think of the way the book of Jonah also ends with.

Ending with an open-ended question:

Welcome to chapter 4 of the book of Jonah.

We have been studying the book of Jonah and we have learned chapter one and chapter two. Chapter one was where Jonah ran away from God. Chapter 2 was when he went into the belly of the big fish and at the end of Chapter 2, the big fish vomits Jonah onto the dry land. In chapter 3 we see how the wicked people of Nineveh repent, all of them, young and old alike and God shows mercy on them.

So today we will look at chapter four. Although Jonah preached to the people asking them to repent, deep inside he wanted the people of Nineveh to be destroyed! The reason was, they were the enemies of his people. They were bad people who had looted, killed, and destroyed his people and their land. Now when Jonah realizes that God would respond to the repentance of the people of Nineveh and not destroy them but show mercy to them, he becomes very upset. And so, God takes this opportunity to teach Jonah about His compassion and mercy. That’s the story of chapter 4.

The Sulking Prophet


I’m sure that have you seen children get very upset and angry (sometimes even adults also). What do they do? They will walk away and sit somewhere with a pouting face; sad, angry, and upset. Jonah does the same thing – he goes and sits on top of a hill opposite to the big city, to see its destruction. God then provides a gourd plant to give him shade. But the next day at dawn, a small worm comes and attacks the plant and eats all its leaves. And when he wakes up in the morning, since the shady tree is now gone, the sun’s hot rays start to shine brightly on him. A hot wind also comes to make matters worse. Remember, he was already angry the previous day and now he is all the more angry because of the heat of the sun’s rays and the hot wind! And he’s sitting there all angry because this little worm came and ate the plant which gave him shade. 

Now God comes and asks him a question – Jonah, why are you angry? He says, I’m angry because my shade is gone. God says –

Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

Jonah’s answer is not given here.

Sometimes as we grow older in our spiritual life, we can become so concerned with ourselves, our comforts, and our needs. It’s natural because we are all selfish creatures. All of us; no one excluded. We find it difficult to think about anyone else other than our family, our children, and ourselves. We lose sight of the larger picture – of the millions who are starving – both physically and spiritually. We can easily lose the significance of Jesus’ statement – ‘I have come to seek and save that which was lost.’ As we grow older as a Christian, chances of us being hard hearted and less repentant and less merciful to other people increases. We can lose sight of who we are called to be – the light to those in darkness.

Here are some questions to ask ourselves even as we learn from the question God asked Jonah.

1. Am I obedient to the call of God on my life, irrespective of my likes and dislikes?

2. Am I focused more on my comforts and not willing to pay the price to proclaim the gospel by my words and deeds (just like Jonah)?

3. As a parent, am I more concerned about the temporal needs of my children than their spiritual needs? Are their spiritual needs even a priority for me?

4. As a mother, am I praying that God would call at least one of my children to serve God and doing all I can to encourage them to follow God’s call on their life?

5. Do I have a list of those who are rebellious, running away from God and am I earnestly praying for them to be brought to repentance (just like Jonah was)?

6. Am I doing my part to help share God’s love for humanity through Jesus Christ – by praying, sending, or going?

7. Am I praying for more young people – both boys and girls to dedicate their lives to serve God through the holy Church like Fr. Victor?

May God in His mercy guide us each day to live a life pleasing to Him! Amen.

To read the first part of the Book of Jonah, click here.

To read the second part of the Book of Jonah, click here.

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