21 February 2018 – Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
Jonah 3:1-10, Psalms 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19, Luke 11:29-32
Jonah 3:6-10 – Then tidings reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he made proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, or drink water but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth and let them cry mightily to God; yea, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not?” 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.
Luke 11:29 – When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”
It’s quite a mystery – that Jonah, a mere man and a reluctant prophet was able to bring an entire city back to God. But Jesus, who is God in person, fails. What can we make of this? Maybe we can just settle for the perverseness of fallen human nature – our unwillingness to respond to divine goodness, even when, at times, we recognise it.
Sin itself is a mystery. We know what harm it does to ourselves and to others and yet we deliberately choose to commit it. Would we have been converted by the preaching of Jesus? Does His presence now, in the Gospel, bring us back to Him? Why is it that year after year, we need the preaching, of Jesus, of John the Baptist, of the prophets?
I suspect that part of Jonah’s effectiveness resulted from the kind of motivation he inspired – he SCARED the Ninevites into conversion. Inspired by fear or not, the conversion was genuine and the Lord God “saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way”.
All this throws light on our own Lenten journey, it makes us examine our motives for these Lenten practices. We don’t have to observe a strict fast as in the old days but the Church will never give up telling her people of the serious need for self-discipline in their lives. She knows that if we do not control our appetites, they will control us and deprive us of our humanity and any chance of eternal life.
“With all your heart turn to me” says the Lord, ” for I am tender and compassionate” (Gospel Verse)
And it is noteworthy that the Church has us respond to the story of the Ninevites’ conversion by putting into our hearts and mouths the familiar penitential Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, O God and put a new and righty spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence and take not thy holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit.”
What are my motives for these Lenten practices?
Have I appetites that tend to overpower me?
What can I do to ‘turn around’ and amend my life?
Fr E Lawrence OSB – Daily Meditations for Lent
I Wish to Clasp Your Hand – Do Not Refuse Me!
Prayer of Eugene de Ferronays
“Dear Lord! It is just when I am in the world
that I have most need of You
because You know it is full of snares
that the devil has set for me.
You must hold my hand, dear Lord,
if You will not abandon me.
A little of the world is not bad for me;
it is even good, for it teaches me how small it is
and I feel the greater happiness
when I come back to You.
But that I may surely do so,
You must only loose Your hold a little,
that it may not try me too far,
You must not entirely leave hold.
Do You see dear Lord?
I wish to clasp Your hand – do not refuse me!”