Scripture Reading for Today: Jonah 3:1-10 (read it here)
The great fish deposits Jonah on the dry land, and he is right back where he started. For the second time, God sends Jonah to Nineveh. This time Jonah complies, and he sets out obediently on his second journey, this time by land. It seems the prophet has learned his lesson. Or maybe he is in a better position to appreciate the opportunity for repentance God is extending to Nineveh.
God gave Jonah a second chance to set things right. And the least Jonah could do is offer the same to the people of the great city.
The site of the ancient city of Nineveh is across the river from modern-day Mosul in northern Iraq. Sennacherib resided in Nineveh and renovated the city during his 20-year reign in the early seventh century B.C.
Archeological excavations have shown that one could easily walk around it (about 7.5 miles), but it took three days for Jonah to proclaim his message in all its squares and places of assembly. But after just one day of hearing Jonah announcing that they had just forty days remaining to repent, the people begin fasting and donning the traditional sackcloth of repentance.
Like the sailors on the ship, these pagan—and hated—Assyrian people respond to God much more quickly and sincerely than Jonah the prophet had.
News of this also reaches the royal household, and the king himself fasts, puts on sackcloth, and sits in ashes. The king and his court also issue a royal decree calling for repentance from all the citizens. Their repentance must go beyond display and reach into their hearts. The king extends the fast even to the animals of the kingdom.
No prophet within Israel had ever witnessed so thorough a response to God’s word. The king of Nineveh hopes God will take note of their remorse, forgive their offenses, and spare them from destruction. And God does recognize their sincerity; and the entire city is spared.
Everything in his personal history suggests that Jonah did not appreciate the great privilege of having been called to participate in the work of God; and, therefore, he should not have been given a second chance.
Now that I think of it, in many ways we are all like Jonah. None of us can claim to be qualified for participation in the divine work, because we all have disobeyed God’s voice in the past. The service of God is therefore, in a sense, always a second chance and always an undeserved privilege.
The privilege of serving the Lord is never on the grounds of our gifts and qualities, or our capacities for the job at hand. The call of God is simultaneously a sign of mercy, in that he is willing to employ the unworthy, and a sign of his concern for the salvation of others.
In the Eucharistic prayer, we thank the Lord for having considered us worthy to stand in his presence and serve him.
Let us spend our days in joyful service to the Lord.
Schooled by Mary, let us also be generous with others as God has been generous to us.
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Let us make this a blessed day.
Keep Jesus in your mind and heart and share him with all you meet.
Fr. Michael Brizio, IMC
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