“You pity the plant, for which you did not labour, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, where there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left and much cattle?” (Jonah 4:10-11)
After Jonah preached a warning message to the people of Nineveh, they repented, and God pardoned them. Forty days passed, and Nineveh was not destroyed. Jonah became a “false prophet”. Since his threats did not pass, some wondered if God sent him in the first place. Jonah was furious; he prayed that God would take his life.
On the other hand, Jonah was angry that God overlooked the sins of the Ninevites. Sometimes, like Jonah, we are angry at those who forgive. If you are a person who forgives, you may have heard statements like these: “You mean you let him go like that?” “After all he did to you?” “Now I know you are such a fool.” “Don’t be moved by his crocodile tears, oh.” “He deserves to die.” Etc.
Jonah was not happy that the tree which gave him shade at night would suddenly wither. Little did he know that this is precisely what he wished for the people of Nineveh. Jonah wanted justice served. Jonah failed to realise that justice can also mean offering the sinner a second chance because they still have something good in them. That tree may have committed many atrocities, but to Jonah, the tree was needed to give him shade. Think about this: those we condemn as the worst of sinners are saints in the eyes of others.
I remember watching a video clip of how some policemen escorted a young man arrested after shooting more than twenty unarmed school children. Those with me were so angry, not just because of what this young man did but also because the policemen were guarding him like a king. Like David, who was mad at the fictional character in Nathan’s story, we become furious with and judge others until we realise that by so doing, we also judge ourselves.
Forgiveness is only sweet when you are the one in need of it. It never ceases to amaze me how I expect others to tolerate, understand, and forgive me when I sin, yet I am mad at people who tolerate, put up with, and forgive others. Why am I angry with someone for forgiving, yet if I were the one being forgiven, I would not be angry?
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus teaches us that God will not forgive our sins if we don’t forgive others. Jesus wants us to forgive and let go. Forgiving others is not foolishness. Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it is wisdom. Today’s world is at the precipice of a potential Third World War because humans have failed to learn that forgiving is better than retaliating. Forgiveness is wisdom. If it weren’t the best option, Jesus would not preach it.
Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, teach me how to forgive. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Bible Study: Jonah 4:1-11, Ps. 86:3-6,9-10, Luke 11:1-4).*
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu