The word of the Lord was addressed to Jonah: ‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare: it took three days to cross it. Jonah went on into the city, making a day’s journey. He preached in these words, ‘Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.’ And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least. The news reached the king of Nineveh, who rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes. A proclamation was then promulgated throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his ministers, as follows: ‘Men and beasts, herds and flocks, are to taste nothing; they must not eat, they must not drink water. All are to put on sackcloth and call on God with all their might; and let everyone renounce his evil behaviour and the wicked things he has done. Who knows if God will not change his mind and relent, if he will not renounce his burning wrath, so that we do not perish?’ God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.
The crowds got even bigger, and Jesus addressed them:
‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and 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. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’
“The people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast”
One of my favourite stories growing up was Disney’s Pinocchio. I recall the scene where Gepetto was swallowed by a giant whale while searching for Pinocchio. Upon hearing the news, Pinocchio travelled deep into the ocean to find the whale, got swallowed up and built a huge fire causing the whale to sneeze them out onto the shore.
I was amused upon reading the book of Jonah for the first time some years back, and found Walt Disney’s story of Pinocchio very close to the readings where Gepetto, like the father is sent to tell of the danger Pinocchio is in. However, Jonah prefigures Jesus, who sends the gospel out to all nations (Mt 28:19).
Two years ago, a team worker was caught committing fraud. His reaction was somewhat like that of the Assyrians. I witnessed him fasting and using the same clothes for two days. After many tears of repentance, the management relented and gave him another chance with a stern warning and no increment for the year. It was very enlightening to witness how my boss’ actions resembled the mercy of God, as he offered a second chance to my colleague who sincerely repented. Since then, he has grown from strength to strength.
In the Gospels, Jesus mocks the Jewish listeners for their complacency as they asked for a sign to prove His divinity. He uses this story to remind them about the pride of considering themselves the ‘chosen’ race. However, God in His mercy offered salvation to the Gentiles, which reminds me of how I need to repent daily of my pride, which easily grows. As we enter into the season of Lent, I will take this time to grow deeper in repentance and never rule anyone out of His abounding Mercy.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Christian Eber)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that just as the Assyrians of Nineveh repented upon the warning of their destruction, so too will I repent for my sins daily using the Examen and turn towards His divine mercy for salvation.
Thanksgiving: Thank you for the mercy shown upon us and for sending us out to the nations to proclaim this gospel just like Jonah finally did.