St. Jonah—A Saint Who was Reluctant to Accept a Difficult Call

The feast of Jonah the Prophet is Sept. 21.

Pieter Lastman, “Jonah and the Whale,” 1621
Pieter Lastman, “Jonah and the Whale,” 1621 (photo: Public Domain)

But the LORD sent a great fish to swallow Jonah, and he remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. ―Jonah 2:1

Jonah’s fascinating story took place during an unidentified time frame when some Hebrews had become a bit on the haughty side, feeling their nation was the only nation worthy of God’s favor. Because of this attitude, Jonah was stunned when God told him to travel to the neighboring (and often terrorizing) country of Assyria to preach to the people of one of its major cities, Nineveh.

This anxious prophet tried to escape God’s request by boarding a ship headed to a faraway place called Tarshish. This plan, though, did not work, as God demanded Jonah’s attention by causing a storm to nearly wreck the ship. The crew fearfully decided to throw Jonah overboard, hoping to abate God’s fury. Remarkably, a large fish swallowed Jonah, who then turned his whole being toward the Lord, begging for mercy from the belly of the enormous fish. After three days, Jonah was spit upon the shore, miraculously having survived the ordeal.

Once Jonah was free from the stormy sea and the terrifying fish, God once again made his wishes known. This time, the hesitant prophet headed to Nineveh and gave severe warnings to the people there of impending doom due to their wicked ways. Amazingly, all the people of Nineveh―even the king―carefully heeded Jonah’s warnings and began to repent, fast and improve their lives. So, God then gave the citizens of Nineveh another chance and did not destroy their city. Jonah was a bit miffed over this, feeling that a punishment was still deserved.

God decided to explain his forgiveness through a gourd plant. Jonah sought refuge from the heat under the leaves of this gourd plant when later a worm came along and ruined it. The loss of the shady plant greatly upset the prophet. God expressively pointed out how his care for the citizens of Nineveh, people he created and loved, should clearly outweigh Jonah’s care for a mere plant―a plant that Jonah had neither grown nor tended.

St. Jonah’s story colorfully illustrates the importance of always doing God’s will and caring for all people, no matter the faith or nationality.


Nine Days with St. Jonah

Perhaps you would like to spend nine days with St. Jonah and see if God is tugging your heart toward a special calling. Or, maybe you are experiencing a time of difficult duty or intolerance. Spending a novena of days with St. Jonah and your Bible, asking this Old Testament saint to pray for your needs may very well help you along your way. The feast of St. Jonah is Sept. 21.

  • Day 1) Jonah 1:1–9
  • Day 2) Jonah 1:10-16
  • Day 3) Jonah 2:1–7
  • Day 4) Jonah 2:8-11
  • Day 5) Jonah 3:1–5
  • Day 6) Jonah 3:6-10
  • Day 7) Jonah 4:1–6
  • Day 8) Jonah 4:7-11
  • Day 9) Matthew 12:40-41