The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands.
Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.” When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Jonah, empowered by God’s word, gives the Ninevites an opportunity for repentance. God’s message to repent transcends political, financial and social dividing lines. In their repentance, the Ninevites are instructed to take nothing of taste, to dress humbly, to avoid evil and violence.
From today’s reading, we find many similarities with our contemporary Lenten practices:
-40 days of preparation
-Emphasis on personal discipline
-Intention to avoid wrongdoing and violence
-Direction to seek the Lord
One week ago, as we stood before ministers of the Church to receive ashes, many of us heard the same message, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Our charge is twofold. We seek temperance to focus desires, and we seek faith in our Savior and the truth of the Gospel. As we go about our prayer, fasting and almsgiving, may we focus on and draw near to Jesus, through whom our sins are forgiven.
—Alan Ratermann is an English teacher and Director of Ignatian Service Programs at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri.
Lord God, help us to focus our Lenten practices on those things that draw us closer to you. Give us the strength to fast from those things that are not giving us life as we continue through this season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Amen.
—The Jesuit Prayer team
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