Readings: Jonah 3: 1-5, 10, Psalm 25 “Teach me your ways, O Lord”, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, one of the most famous stories in the Bible is the tale of Jonah, the run-away prophet. Jonah is commanded by God to go to the great city of Nineveh and tell the people that God is going to destroy them in forty days. If this is his first mission, it is also his first refusal. But he goes through the experience of being swallowed by a whale in order to be born again (repentance).
Jonah has the opportunity of repentance. He prays, he reflects, he remembers; and then he promises to fulfill the word of God. The word of God is addressed to him a second time: “Up! Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.” This time Jonah obeys. He goes into the city and tells the people that all of them will be destroyed in forty days. Surprisingly, everyone pays attention. The king and his ministers command the people to renounce their evil behavior: “who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his furious anger?” They hope that if they repent, so too will God.
Go repents when the people repent. Everyone is overjoyed. All except Jonah. He argued with God. “That is why I fled…I knew that you were a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness and mercy, relenting from evil.”
My dear friends, Jonah was obsessed with being right and he was willing to see all the people perish to be proved right. But the prophet had to learn that the point of his prophecy was not accuracy but repentance. True, Jonah has been made to look foolish; but his foolishness is much less important than people’s repentance. He learnt that it is never too late to repent. The story of Jonah holds out hope for all of us. In the story everyone repents: Jonah himself, the people of Nineveh and even God. Repentance is good news because it means the nothing is settled, nothing is sealed. If God can beginning again, we can begin again and again and again.
May the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Fr. Paschal Chester, svd