In today's first reading, Jonah 1: 1-2: 2, 11, Jonah boards a ship going in the opposite direction from Nineveh. God's request of Jonah was that he [s]et out for the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it; their wickedness has come up before me." Jonah runs away from God, as does a little child whose parents are asking of him/her what the little one does not was to do. Just as a parent runs after the fleeing child, so, too, does God follow Jonah. He gets Jonah's attention when a violent storm breaks out and the ship on which he is traveling is in great danger of sinking! Frightened, the crew, once they believe that Jonah is the problem, throw Jonah overboard. The turbulence ceases. And Jonah is swallowed up by a huge fish and coughed up on the shores of Nineveh, so the story goes--a theological treatise teaching us that God is in charge and that, when we try to escape God's ways and fail to carry out God's will for us, we, too, will experience turbulence--a troubled conscience that deprives us of sleep at night and denies us the peace we crave. We, too, become swallowed up by darkness!
Our only chance of becoming free is that God ultimately rescues us from our waywardness. With Jonah, Jonah 2: 3-5, 8, we pray:
Out of my distress I called upon the Lord,
and he answered me;
From the midst of the nether world I cried for help,
and you heard my voice.
For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the sea,
and the flood enveloped me;
All your breakers and your billows
passed me over.
Then I said, "I am banished from our sight!
yet would I again look upon your holy temple."
When my soul fainted within me,
I remembered the Lord;
My prayer reached you
in your holy temple.