Lord, you are Merciful and Gracious
Jonah resents the fact that Nineveh repented and converted, thus escaping from the wrath of God (Jonah 4:1). In fact, it is because God is gracious and merciful that adds to the disappointment. The responsorial psalm (Psalm 86) underlines this merciful and gracious aspect of God.
Jonah is like those who say that God is unjust by being merciful to sinners who repent (see Ezekiel 18). It is however God’s desire to save not to destroy. That is why the devotee in Psalm 86 can put himself in God’s hands and be confident that he will be saved and vindicated against his enemies.
In Habakkuk 2:4, God tells the prophet that the purification of all will transpire but the just will live because they trust in Him. “The just — the devotee — shall live by their faith”, Habakkuk will say. The devotee in Psalm 86 puts his confidence in God (v. 2) for he knows that He will save him in the time of distress (v. 7). Not even the enemies that rise up against him (v. 14) can shake that confidence because he knows that the Lord is “Help” and “Comfort” (v.17)
The problem of Jonah is that he does not act like Moses or Abraham in interceding for the people of Nineveh. Moses interceded for Israel even if it meant a longer time with them in the desert. Abraham interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah on account of Lot, the relative who has been giving his people difficulties. Jonah is the prophet of doom; he announces death, not the possibility of life. Unlike the other prophets, he does not have the “pathos” of God.
The desire for vengeance — that is what characterizes the attitude of Jonah. That is why God had to teach him through the gourd plant what it means to “feel for” somebody.
A prophet is meant to be God’s mouth-piece, not merely a bearer of bad news. God desires life, not death. And the prophet is meant to open up the possibilities for life for those who “do not know left from right.”
Mould my heart, Lord, and make it like it your own, so that when I speak for you, it would be out of a heart that reflects what you really are: gracious and merciful.