If you are like me, then you find yourself increasingly dependent on your smartphone. To be honest, I find them really helpful for scheduling, planning, following up, reading a quick research and also for navigating in an unfamiliar area. There are layers and layers of complex technologies used by a navigation app – various sensors and GPS technologies, connectivity and offline data, AE, user generated content, live traffic feed, etc. As powerful and effective as these technologies might be, they still rely on our intention and ability to follow the directions. But it does happen to all of us that we miss a turn or decide that we are going to take another route. And when this happens our navigation apps will try to reroute us back to the original route. Eventually, they will give up or find another way to get us to our destination.
Life in so many ways is like a journey. And along that journey sometimes we lose our way. When we find ourselves at the cross-sections of uncertainty, on the roads that lead nowhere, when we are not sure where we truly are in life, what our goal and place in this world is, who is the person that will always be there for us, ready to show the way, give us hope and strength?
In today’s Scripture reading we see some of the scribes and Pharisees coming to Christ and asking for a sign, for a miracle and proof. But great miracles are not the preferred language for God. The extraordinary and life-giving word and messages of the Lord often reach to us through very ordinary events and people in our lives. Therefore, we see Christ utterly rejecting their request for a miracle and instead, reminding them about prophet Jonah. Who was Jonah? How his story can help us grow in our faith and see how God works through our lives?
In the Book of Jonah, we see God emerging powerfully into the life of the prophet and commissioning him with a seemingly mission impossible. God wanted him to venture into the Assyrian capital, preach and call its residents and the king into repentance. What does Jonah do? He gets into a ship headed in the opposite direction. What Jonah did not realize is that one can’t avoid and escape God who is everywhere, present in everything and everyone. Soon, his plans start falling apart, the peaceful waters of the sea transform into a catastrophic storm, his shipmates turn against him, blame him for the unexpected storm and toss him into the angry sea. A giant fish swallows him and three days later spits him out near the shore of the Assyrian capital he was trying so hard to avoid. But God was always with Jonah. Even though everyone and everything turned against him, God used his misfortunes to create new opportunities and chances for Jonah to revise and correct his choices and realign his life.
We can all identify with the story of Jonah. At some point in life, we all felt that despite our best efforts and intentions things just don’t work out for us, our plans fall apart, our friends turn against us and the enormous challenges and struggles of our lives are ready to swallow us. At some point in life, we all lose our way, we stumble and make mistakes, we find ourselves on roads that lead nowhere and keep bringing us back to where we started from. Moments when we no longer know which way to go and what to do, what is right and what is wrong. We strive and try harder to find our way, we fall down but try to get back on our feet. We might even give up on ourselves, on our desire of finding our path and place in this world. At some point we might decide that simply getting along and taking life one day at a time is good enough.
Simply getting along is never a part of the divine plan. Living a life that lacks excitement, joy and happiness is not why you and I were created. God has a perfect plan for you and me, for each and every one of us. God, as a loving father, is always awaiting the return of his prodigal children, ready to embrace, accept and restore them. As the Good Shepherd of our souls, Christ is always searching for the missing sheep and calling for their name. The loving Lord guides our lives in the same exact way as he was guiding Jonah. He continuously and tirelessly creates opportunities, possibilities and new chances for us to reexamine and evaluate our lives, our decision and the direction of our lives.