The first reading comes from the Book of Jonah. It is the story of a Jewish man who had such hatred for the people of Nineveh that when God told him to go there to save them, rather than obey, he tried sailing west beyond God’s power. But God sent a storm that ended in Jonah being swallowed by a whale, spending three days in there. In 400 B.C. when the story appeared people realized that it was a wild piece of fiction, but they accepted it as an inspired story by which God was telling Jews not to hate foreigners.
Anyone who insists that every story in the Bible be factual is frustrating God’s intentions in putting those inspired fictions in his Bible. Stories do not need to be factual to be of use to us. Outside of the books of the Bible the book we quote most often is Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. We know it was a work of fiction but we are helped at being good people by many lines form that play. Here are some examples.
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”
“This above all: to thine own self be true.”
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
“What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty!”
“When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.”