“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it.” (Jonah 3:10)
In our Gospel passage today, Mark tells us that Jesus began his public ministry by preaching saying: “This is the time of fulfilment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” In other words, “today is all we have, this is the time, repent now and believe the Gospel.”
In our first reading, we see a very similar message being preached by Jonah to the people of Nineveh: “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” In other words, there is no time, we cannot postpone repentance otherwise, we shall be destroyed.
Even our Second reading today contains the same message: “The appointed time has grown very short…” Not only does our second reading give us the strategy of repentance, it also explains why repentance is absolutely necessary: “For the form of this world is passing away.” This world will soon end, even, our very life will end someday.
When we put our readings together, there are some lessons we learn.
1. There is Always a Punishment For Sin.
Sin is only attractive when we turn our eyes from its consequences. If we only tell ourselves the truth that the only reward from sin is death then we are able to find the courage to say “No” to the devil in moments of temptation.
Every sin no matter how small carries a punishment by its very nature. Chinua Achebe says: “One who brings in ant-infested wood into his bedroom should be prepared for lizards’ invasion.” If you put your bare hands in fire, there should be no negotiation about being burnt. Sir Isaac Newton was right indeed when he said “for every ACTION, there is an equal and opposite REACTION.”
2. Fasting is Essential to the Process of Repentance.
Even doctors prescribe fasting as a medicine because it helps the body physically. On a spiritual level, it helps your spirit regain control over your flesh. One who cannot say “No” to his own flesh will never find the courage to say “No” to the devil.
Even though Jesus is God, he began his ministry with a 40days fasting and prayer exercise. By fasting, Jesus learnt to discipline his flesh and by his prayer, Jesus acquired Power. The people of Nineveh fasted, they put on sackcloth, they denied themselves, changed their ways and God was impressed at their willingness to drop sin behind.
3. To Repent is to Become Detached and Make Fundamental Changes.
To put it in pidgin, “repentance no be by mouth.” The story is told of a guy who was baptised and the priest said to him: From today, your name is no longer ‘Somebody’, you are now ‘Saint’. The young man got home and found a bottle of beer in his fridge, he took the beer, dipped it in water, brought it out and said: “From today, your name is no longer ‘beer’, you are now ‘pure water’.
Most times, when we tell ourselves we are going to repent, we actually deceive ourselves. Our people say, one who fails to plan, plans to fail. It is only a fool that would do the same thing again and again and still expect a different result. The truth is that sin never happens without our consent, 90% of the time, we actually make plans to sin. Let’s face it, you say, “I repent” yet after mass, you have made plans for this your friend to visit you knowing fully well that each time that friend comes around or each time you go to this person’s house, something sinful must happen.
Jesus told us in Matthew 5:29-30 “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right-hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” To repent is to do something drastic. It is to cut off, it is to withdraw and be detached as St. Paul says in today’s second reading: “let those who deal with the world live as though they had no dealings with it.”
Stop deceiving yourself. End that sinful relationship today. Make a fundamental change. Sin does not happen in a vacuum, there are things that lead to it. If sin must leave your life, then you must plan to fight it. How about if you set yourself a personal target of finishing the Bible this year? How about if you decide to pray the rosary each time you become bored, alone or idle? How about deciding to download the lives of Saints with your phone rather than watch pornography online?
4. Repentance Requires Taking a Step Further in our Walk with God.
In the call of the disciples, we see another dimension of repentance. As soon as Jesus said to them “come, I will make you fishers of men,” they left everything at once and followed him. They did not ask any questions.
Some of us are scared of what would happen to their business if they stopped telling lies to their customers. Some of us youths cannot imagine what would become of our lives if we lose our boyfriend or girlfriend forgetting that hell is real. Some of us wonder where the money would come from if we abandon our current sinful practice that seems to be fetching us money. Don’t be scared, Jesus says: “Follow Me.” Follow me and I will take care of you, follow me and I will make you fishers of men, follow me and I will take you to a higher level of prosperity and success, follow you and I will give you true peace. Follow me and your life will never remain the same again.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, help me to truly repent and never return to my vomit again. Amen.
Bible Study: Jonah 3:1-5,10. Psalm 25, 1st Corinthians 7:29-31 and Mark 1:14-20).