“In our first reading today we have that wonderful story of Jonah the reluctant prophet. Jonah was there in Israel and according to the story of course, Israel was at war and was very much oppressed by the people of Nineveh which was a much more powerful city at the time. So Jonah gets this message to go and to preach to the Ninevites that they might repent and God might pardon them and that they would no longer be oppressive to the Israelites. Well, Jonah knows that’s a hard thing and he doesn’t want the Ninevites to convert anyway and so God asked him to go east to Nineveh. Instead, he gets on a boat and goes west towards Spain and in the midst of his journey there’s this great storm that comes about and when there’s a storm at sea everyone was wondering why is God sending this storm to us. Jonah finally admits that God’s mad at him. Of course they throw him overboard and then the fish comes and picks Jonah up and takes him back to the shore where Nineveh is at and skews him up on the shore and Jonah says, ‘Ok I gotta go preach, but I know they’re not gonna convert.’ So he goes in and it’s this huge city and he goes in just one day and he’s preaching and he tells the people, ‘In forty days you’re gonna be destroyed unless you convert.’ and all the people convert! The king even converts. They put on sackcloth. They put on ashes. They convert to the Lord and Jonah is terribly upset with that because that isn’t what he wanted to happen, so he goes out and he goes under the broom tree and he sleeps there and even it dries up on him and he says, ‘Lord just kill me.’ Jonah thought he was taking the easy road of getting away from the hard job that God had given him, but God made the job really easier. Jonah chose what he thought was the easy way, but his life became more difficult because he didn’t choose forgiveness. He chose vindictiveness. He chose to continue to be at odds and that’s part of the message. Fr. Viet in his homily today mentioned and he said, ‘There’s an old saying that if you choose the easy thing, life is gonna be hard. If you do the hard thing, life is gonna get easy.’ and there’s a lot of truth in that particular thing and we see the opposite choice in the Gospel today where Peter and James and John are all out there fishing and Jesus comes along and says, ‘Leave your boats, leave your livelihood, leave your family. Come follow me.’ What a hard decision that was, but they said yes to him. They chose the hard and found their life much easier because it was never a life in which they were by themselves, but rather that they were with God and so that great response that those apostles gave and how it impacted their life. God does invite us to do some hard things within our life, but he also again brings about fulfillment in those hard things.
I think in my own life when I was in my 20’s my friends asked me, ‘How can you do what you’re doing? How can you become a priest? How can you give up marriage and family and profession and all those things? How can you do that? That’s a hard thing to do.’ and I said, ‘Well you do that because you fall in love. You fall in love with Christ. You fall in love with the Eucharist. You fall in love with the Church and that’s what you do.’ and they said, ‘That’s too hard.’ When they were in their 40’s we were visiting one day and they said, ‘How did you get off so easy?’ Because they were right in the midst of all those hard times of their profession and trying to provide for their families and maybe kids getting a little more difficult as they got to be teenagers and they’re saying, ‘Boy this is hard’. But those same people because they persevered in there they’re enjoying their grandkids. They’re enjoying their retirement. They’re enjoying the success and fulfillment of their life and so they chose the hard, but it became easy and certainly that is true within my life. I may have chosen what looked to me to be hard, but it’s been so easy because God is there. Even when we face temptation it seems like it’s the easier way to go to submit to sin that it’s so easy, but when we sin it really leads to a harder life. It leads to a guilty conscience. It leads to discontent. It leads to remorse and it leads to disintegration of relationship with God and others and even ourselves whereas when we do the hard thing in the midst of temptation and we make the right choice we reject the sin, we embrace the virtue how much easier our life is. We don’t have the hypocrisy. We don’t have the pain. We don’t have the disintegration, but rather it is better and so we are continually invited to reflect upon God’s call within our life. God’s call is there daily for us. God’s invitation is to life. ‘I come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.’ That way to true life may be hard at first, but it will become easy because the Lord is with us and brings about ultimate fulfillment. If we choose what is easy our life will become harder particularly in eternity. If we choose what is hard, our life will become easier, including in eternity.”