1st Week of Lent
1st Reading: Jon 3:1-10
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.” So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the Lord’s bidding. Now Nineveh was an enormously large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes. Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his nobles: “Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; every man shall turn from his evil way and from the violence he has in hand. Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath, so that we shall not perish.” When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.
Gospel: Lk 11:29-32
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
The craze for signs and wonders: There is an incessant craze for miracles. We even remember the rich man in the Parable of Lazarus who similarly asked for someone to be miraculously sent from the dead for those on earth to believe. Jesus tells us today that his very presence is enough miracle, just like Jonah was enough sign for the Ninevites who repented on hearing his words; just like Solomon was enough sign to the Queen of Sheba when she beheld his wisdom. It took the lockdown due to the pandemic for us to realise how privileged we were to have a space to gather and worship, to attend a ceremony, to go to the public market, to gather for a meeting. These are the things we used to take for granted. Do you realise the privileges the Lord has surrounded you with? Do you give thanks to the Lord for these blessings, these privileges?
Prayer: May the Lord open our inner eyes to discover the privileges with which he has surrounded us, especially the privilege of worshipping him in truth and in spirit. Amen!
MAKING A COMEBACK: This Generation seeks signs with a reason that they shall believe. But shortly after they accuse Jesus, “He casts out demons by Belzebul”. The people pf Nineveh repented and God changed His mind on destroying them. How come then, we cannot do likewise? Jesus repeats twice: “At judgment, the queen of south will rise with the men of this generation and condemn it”. Today’s generation is fast losing it by being adamant seeking signs. If life has not taught us to trust, in spite of the generous ways of God, we stand to lose. Jesus’ words do not have a condemning tone. If we refuse to trust the Son of God, it is being incorrigible, being stiff-necked. Let us be people humble and amiable, grateful for God’s kindness. It is in humility we need to approach his Incarnation and his salvific efforts.
Prayer: Father forgive us our failures, draw us into your eternal embrace.
LEADERSHIP AND OPPORTUNITY: John L. Mahon in the Book “An Enemy Called Average” says that many people miss their opportunity in life because it comes to them dressed in overalls and looking like work. Nineveh was destined for total destruction, but found the courage to confront itself through the leadership of the king. When he proclaimed the fast and beseeched all to turn to the Lord, his message made greater impact than Jonah’s! This fact underpins the central role played by leaders in the lives of their subjects. A good leader must sniff the opportunity available for his followers and lead them to it. Good leadership is participatory rather than merely instructional. When the leader is part of the life of his people, he has greater impact to their overall growth. However, all must be alert to the opportunities that could pass by them. Jesus points out this to his disciples that the opportunity they have today is enviable and should not be left to rot away. In admonishing the crowd, the Luhya saying, “that which lives by the river often dies of thirst,” finds meaning. Grab your opportunity, strike out the “I wish I had …” phrase.
THE SIGN OF JONAH: The sign of Jonah is a symbol of transformation. Initially, Jonah himself did not want to obey God. His three days in the belly of the fish transformed him, making him ready to embrace the will of God. He preached. The people of Nineveh sat in ashes and sack cloth. They were transformed too. Jesus too remained in the belly of the earth for three days, before being raised to new life. Here, there is a common theme of darkness and waiting as well as the light of transformation. The paschal mystery that we are preparing to celebrate, in a special way at the end of Lent, invites us not to be afraid of the darkness of pain. Despite the suffering of waiting, and the experience of isolation, we will be raised to new life. We will experience transformation.