Skip to content

Wednesday, first week of Lent

February 16, 2005

Blessed Wednesday!

Jonah 3:1-10 (God forgave the Ninevites, who repented on hearing Jonah preach)
Psalm 51:3-19 “A broken, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn”
+Luke 11:29-32 (Jesus is greater than Jonah–so repent!)

I see I missed one of the types (foreshadowings) of Lent in Ash Wednesday’s post. Fortunately, today’s first reading gives me another shot at it :). You’re probably familiar with the story of Jonah–how God told him to go preach to his enemies (in what is now Iraq!) & Jonah ran the other way. God had to send a storm, then a great fish, & give Jonah three days in the fish’s belly to reconsider the error of his ways. Finally Jonah got it right (partly, anyway), went to Nineveh and preached. That’s where we come in with today’s reading. “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” This is it folks. You’ve got forty days to show God what you’re made of. Then it’s all over.

Forty days to repent…that should sound familiar. It’s especially significant for most of us because we’re Gentiles (I say “most”, because I’m blessed to be married to one of the Chosen People!). Jonah’s preaching to the Ninevites is one of the few instances in the Old Testament where God extended His mercy to anyone other than the Jews. The good news (for us–Jonah wasn’t so pleased) is that the Ninevites were up to the task. They repented in those forty days. They fasted, put on sackcloth, sat in ashes, turned from their wickedness and cried to God. And God spared them. Our Lenten observances of ashes, fasting, prayer (crying to God) and changing our lives (we might consider practising penance in our choice of clothing too–a modern version of sackcloth?) touch the heart of this same merciful God.

Jesus refers to this story in our Gospel, chiding the Jewish people for their unbelief. They, who had an entire history of God’s miracles, wisdom and laws at their disposal–in addition to the Presence of the very Son of God–persisted in their unbelief. The heathen Ninevites, who had none of the above, not only believed, but repented. Jesus appealed to the crowd’s national pride. “What are you, spiritual wimps? The most despicable of pagans did better than that & all they had was a two-bit prophet that God had to knock over the head twice because he was so obstinate” (a lot of artistic license taken with Luke 11:32). Just in case you’re wondering what the other “knock on the head” was, you might want to read the book of Jonah–it’s only three short chapters.

Our position has a lot in common with that of the Jewish crowds Jesus was scolding. We’ve inherited the laws God gave them. We have a long history of God’s miracles to help us believe. More importantly, God Incarnate is Present in every Catholic church every day. If we fail to repent, the citizens of Nineveh (Iraqis!) will rise up and condemn us too!

Jesus’ reference to Jonah was significant in another way, which comes out more clearly in Matthew’s rendering of the same incident. “For just as Jonah was in the whale’s belly three days and three nights: so shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:40). Jonah’s three days in the whale were a type (foreshadowing) of Jesus’ three days in the tomb. Jesus was pointing us to His sacrifice, to the source of our redemption. Jonah got swallowed up because of his own sin. Jesus descended into the heart of the earth because of ours. Jonah got a new lease on life when the whale got sick all over the shore. Jesus (greater than Jonah!), rose by His own power. This is the sign He offers for our unbelief. This is the hope to which He calls us.

May our observance of Lent lead us to a new life of holiness.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: