Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Sermon / Homily on Jonah and Nineveh Lent

The Lent of Jonah

by Bar Eto briro Dr. D Babu Paul

The Antiochean tradition attaches great significance to the Lent of Jonah, which is followed by the Sunday of the departed priests and the Sunday of All Souls before we enter the Great Lent. Jonah of the Lent is different from the other two persons of the same name referred to in the Bible, the father of Simon Peter and the prophet mentioned in 2 Kings 14: 25. Jonah is referred to as one of the minor prophets, but the scholars are not unanimous in their views on either the "prophet" or the book. Be that as it may let us concentrate on the message which the Lent of Jonah conveys.

The first point to notice is that the book teaches the message that God is not an exclusive possession of the Jews. This is the same message that is implied in Matthew 4: 15,16. Jonah is the symbol of Israel, the Israel which cannot accept that those employed in the Eleventh Hour get the same wages as those who have been toiling from dawn. However God does not abandon Jonah even if he boards the ship to Tarsus instead of the one to Nineveh. Man has no right to block God's mercy, be it to Nineveh, or to Jonah himself.

Secondly Jonah proves that God is on the side of Pluralism as against Particularism. This again amounts to conceding to God the right to judge.

Thirdly let us recall the message arising from today's readings. The reading from the Acts bring back memories of the experience on the Road to Damascus. Here the messenger, Saul, was not running away from his errand. On the other hand he was trying to run it meticulously. However he did not know that he was moving against God's plan for him. Therefore God intervened directly, as through the storm and the whale in the case of Jonah. Unlike Jonah who grieved even after the ship and whale experience Saul willingly surrendered himself to be made Paul. Jonah had preached halfheartedly as evidenced by his dialogue later, but Paul did it enthusiastically as we see from the Pauline Reading of the day(2 Corinthians 4(?, I am typing from memory after returning from church!)). The Gospel is the clear path-giver in the circumstances for the Jonahs and the Sauls that we are. In Mark we hear about the response of the early disciples who left their entire world behind to follow an unknown carpenter. Something told them that here was a carpenter who could build boats for them to make them fishers of men. The Church seems to teach that whether we are like Jonah who rebelled or Saul who went against the Will of God albeit unknowingly God is out to rescue us, Jesus in search of Peters and Andrews and Jameses and Johns, and that is the promise and that is where hope finds its origin.

The crux of the message is that we shall not be judgemental in our approach. Let us concentrate on this aspect this week to eliminate the tendency in us to judge others by our standards. Let God judge. Let us become conduits of his mercy and compassion, and remove from our personality whatever blocks and barricades we have erected knowingly or unknowingly which go block God's unending compassion.


Source: SOCM Forum

See Also:

Nineveh Fast
by HH Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All The East

The History of the Three Days Lent in Syriac Orthodox Church
by Rev. Fr. Dr. Biji Chirathilattu

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for Nineveh Lent

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