VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Old Testament shows that even a prophet who is chosen by God and preaches God’s word can end up thinking his work is more important than God’s mercy, Pope Francis said at his early morning Mass.
Preaching at Mass Oct. 6 in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope focused on the attitude of Jonah not only in the day’s first Scripture reading — Jonah 3:1-10 — but also in the chapter that follows.
In Chapter 3, Jonah preaches to the people of Nineveh that in 40 days God will destroy their city; the people believe him and change their “evil ways.” God sees their repentance and relents.
But Chapter 4 says Jonah was angry at the Lord’s compassion.
Jonah’s preaching “truly worked a miracle because he set aside his stubbornness and obeyed God’s will and did what the Lord commanded,” the pope said at the Mass, which took place on the second day of the Synod of Bishops on the family, although the Mass was not part of the synod agenda.
Reacting to Nineveh’s conversion, the pope said, Jonah “experienced great displeasure and was angry” to the point that he “reproached the Lord.”
In effect, Pope Francis said, Jonah told God, “I did all the work of preaching, I did my job really well and you forgave them?”
Jonah’s heart was so hard that God’s mercy could not find a way in, the pope said. Jonah thought, “my preaching is more important, my thoughts are more important, the whole list of those commandments that must be obeyed are more important — all of this is more important that the mercy of God” in the mind of Jonah.
“Where there is the Lord, there is mercy,” the pope said, adding a phrase that he attributes to St. Ambrose: “And where there is rigidity, there are his ministers.”
“Stubbornness,” the pope said, “challenges the mission, challenges mercy.”
Pope Francis prayed that as the Catholic Church prepares to celebrate the Year of Mercy, Catholics would ask God to shower mercy upon all people “because one understands God’s mercy only when it has been poured out on us, on our sins, on our miseries.”