The Sign of Jonah and the Forty Days of Lent.

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“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. Then tidings reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.” (Jonah 3:4-6)

The entire book of Jonah is a story of God’s unending faith in humanity. God could have simply destroyed the Ninevites but he gave them a second chance by sending Jonah to them. Jonah tried to escape from God but after spending three days in the belly of the fish, he cried for mercy and God gave him a second chance.

It beats my mind that Jonah didn’t even ask them to repent. He didn’t say “change your evil ways. Be good children of God. Stop sinning, etc.” Jonah just went about the city announcing doom and destruction: “Only forty days from now and Nineveh would be destroyed…”

The forty days of Jonah’s proclamation immediately reminds us of the forty days of Lent. As we hear the words of Jonah today, let us place ourselves in the position of the Ninevites. Let us return to God with fasting, ashes and sackcloth. As the King of Nineveh said, “this is a time to fast, a time to turn away from violence, a time to walk away from sinful pleasures and bad habits, a time to seek God’s face like never before.”

If you were told that you have only forty days left to live, how would you spend your last forty days? Wouldn’t you seek to make amends? Wouldn’t you seek reconciliation with God? As we hear in the Stations of the Cross, “those you love will part from you, you too will die one day, a day you do not know, are you prepared for it?”

In our Gospel passage Jesus is not happy with the crowds who were pressuring Him to work signs and wonders. Like this crowd, many Christians today have reduced their worship of God to a mere quest for signs and wonders. It is such an irony that we have enough faith to expect miracles from God but we do not have faith enough to repent from our sins.

For seeking signs, they perceived Jesus not as God in their midst but as some magician who had come to perform and entertain. Jesus had to remind them that He is greater than Solomon (whose wisdom was legendary) and Jonah (whose preaching brought a whole city to its knees). Respect Jesus. Use this forty days to the fullest. Repent.

Bible Study: Jonah 3:1-10, Psalm 51 and Luke 11:29-32).

Fr. Abu

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