The prophet Jonah was stubborn and initially tried to avoid his mission and run away from God. Like the Jews of his time, he harbored a great hatred towards the people of Nineveh to whom God had sent him. His reluctant mission was short, and his message shorter, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.”
However, he was more successful than he could ever imagine, “The people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.” An entire nation was saved from the wrath of God because of the words of a reluctant and angry prophet.
Why would a nation believe the words of a single reluctant prophet from a rival nation? Was it just out of fear of the coming doom that he prophesied? How come the few words of this prophet were powerful enough to convict an entire nation of its sinfulness and bring them to repentance and faith before the living God that they did not know?
Jonah’s words were powerful simply because he spoke God’s words from a heart that had been humbled by God, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah, saying, ‘Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.’” In his time of forced solitude in the belly of the whale during his unsuccessful attempt to flee from God, he had come to experience his own nothingness, the immensity of God, the need to listen to God alone and act on His words, and the necessity of complete dependence on God alone. The words of God that flowed from such a divinely humbled heart could not be resisted by his audience.
Jesus’s words to the disciples in the Sea of Galilee were also very mysterious, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” These uneducated men left everything – boats, nets, father, hired men, etc. – and followed Him without even asking Him, “What the heck does it mean to be a “fisher of men?”
Again, why were Jesus’ words so powerful and irresistible to these men that they could leave everything at once and follow Him? Jesus’ words are powerful first and foremost because of who He is – the true God in human flesh. But His words are also irresistible because Jesus is the God who lovingly humbled Himself, “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”(Phil 2:8) He humbled Himself completely, freely choosing to obey and depend on the Blessed Virgin Mary for everything from the moment of His Incarnation. Lastly, His words were irresistible because His words were all the words of God, “In these last days, God spoke to us through a son, whom He made heir of all things and through whom He created the universe,”(Heb 1:2) Jesus’ words were not the mere opinions of a learned rabbi!
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this same Jesus Christ is alive in us. He wants to save us and all of humanity by drawing people of all nations to Him through us, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.”(Lk 12:49) He wants to save the world a heart at a time through us as we act as His ambassadors whose constant message and lifestyle screams to the whole world, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled with God.”(2Cor 5:20)
But for our words to be powerful, we too must allow God to humble us first, leading us to both experience and express our humility in action. Then we are to speak His irresistible words alone to bring souls from darkness to His liberating light.
God humbles us with both humbling events and His gifts. Such humbling events include our unrelenting struggle with sin, nagging temptations, weaknesses in character and conduct, failures in life, insults from others, difficulty in prayer, disappointments in life, unresolved personal issues, etc. If such things like the clergy sexual abuse scandals and numerous scandalous Catholic politicians cannot humble us, I doubt that any event in life will ever humble us.
God’s gifts that humble us are those things that He lovingly offers us that we just cannot earn or merit. They include His unconditional love, forgiveness, grace, truth, and mercy, Holy Spirit, etc. Our relationship with the saints, especially with Mary, the Mother of God, can also bring us to a humble stance. If God’s overwhelming gift of Himself in the Eucharist cannot humble us, nothing will ever humble us.
When we have been humbled by God’s gifts and providential events, we must also speak His words alone. Sinful hearts cannot resist our divinely inspired words of hope, love, truth, forgiveness, warnings, etc. No matter how strongly we may feel about them, our empty opinions and ideologies are utterly useless to touch the many hardened hearts of our time.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we see so many obstinate hearts within and outside the Church today. We see and hear of people tenaciously holding on to sin and sinful choices, both in their personal life and in the public domain, all in the name of personal freedom. How are they going to be touched and brought to Christ? We cannot transform our nations by simply issuing more Church documents, multiplying synods, holding public rallies, signing petitions, or electing pro-life politicians into public office.
We must first personally respond to God’s first calling to us, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” This is how we are brought to that humble state that disposes us to abandon all form of self-dependence and choose to listen to and depend on God alone. With this humble faith in us, God can do great things in us and through us, especially saving the world one heart at a time as we speak His words. Unless we humbly repent and come to living faith in Jesus Christ, Jesus cannot make us true “fishers of men” that He promises to us as His disciples.
May our Eucharist truly humble us in the midst of all those things that also humble us personally and communally, so that we become the “humble and contrite hearts”(Ps 51:17) that God loves to see in us. When we speak God’s words alone from such divinely humbled hearts, our words cannot be ignored and our nations will be converted, one heart at a time.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!