Wednesday, 21 February 2024. Readings: Jonah 3:1-10, Ps. 51:3-4,12-13,18-19, Luke 11:29-32

“The people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.” (Jonah 3:4-6) 
In the Old Testament, God sent several prophets to preach repentance. Almost all these prophets were ignored, mocked and even persecuted. Jesus noted this in the parable about the ungrateful tenants who treated shamefully the servants sent by the landowner to collect his share of the vineyard’s produce. Noah preached repentance for one hundred years; only his immediate family agreed to enter the Ark, but Jonah preached for three days, and he succeeded in bringing a whole nation to its knees. What was special about Jonah’s preaching, and why was it extremely effective?

1. Jonah’s Life was a Sign: Hearing about his attempt to run from God only to end up in the belly of a great fish was a sign to the people of Nineveh that there is no hiding place from God. They wondered what would happen to them if Jonah could suffer such a fate for attempting to ignore God. Jonah did not need to say much because his story preceded him. This reminds me of the popular saying often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words.” The most powerful sermons are unspoken. As a preacher, my life is either a boost or a hindrance to God’s Word.

2. Jonah Applied the Psychology of Time: Jonah did not preach repentance; He only announced that in forty days, Nineveh would be destroyed. The people of Nineveh realised that it was either “now or never.” From the greatest to the least, they proclaimed a fast and put on sackclothes. If we know we have a limited time, we tend to act faster and procrastinate less. Imagine you only had a few hours to live. Every morning, upon waking, I say, “Today is my last day; if I don’t repent now, I will never get a second chance.”

3. Jonah Preached a Message of Doom: Jonah did not try to paint or sugar-coat the truth; he was not interested in gathering followers but in obeying the voice of God. Despite the moral decadence in our society, many preachers avoid the truth. In many places, church services are organised to entertain and encourage donations. We live in the age St. Paul was referring to when he said: “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

We point fingers at our leaders, forgetting they are the products of our collective sinfulness. Jonah did not preach to the king of Nineveh. When the king heard that the people were fasting, he made it mandatory. The revolution began with the people. We believe our leaders have answers to all our problems, but the reverse is the case. Even if angels come from heaven to rule us, things would worsen unless we repent.

4. Jonah Did Not Work Miracles: Like the crowd in our Gospel passage, many Christians today have reduced their worship of God to a quest for miracles. Jesus referred to such persons as an “evil generation.” Those looking for miracles are only interested in “using” God. Should they get the miracles they seek, it never translates to repentance. Like the towns of Bethsaida and Chorazin, we are all beneficiaries of God’s divine intervention; we have all received answers to our prayers at some point. Why are we stuck in our sins? Do we need more miracles? Do we need to see Jesus face-to-face? Do we need someone to rise from the dead again? Is the sign of the cross not enough?

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, change me completely from the inside out. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Wednesday of the 1st week of Lent. Bible Study: Jonah 3:1-10, Ps. 51:3-4,12-13,18-19, Luke 11:29-32).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu