Scripture: 1st Reading: Jonah3,1-10; Resp. Psalm: Ps51,3-4,12-13,18-19; Gosp. Accl.: Joel2,12-13; Gospel: Luke11,29-32
Repentance is to turn away from sin. Repentance is a religious process whereby human persons examines the direction of their lives and when they discover they are headed in the wrong direction, decide with the grace of God to change course. It is therefore first an inner process, within the depths of the soul, before the external manifestation of a change that is visible to all.
Conversion is to turn over one's life to God. It is an abandonment of the wrong religious beliefs and practises one had embraced up till that moment. Both repentance and conversion can occur as a result of a transforming religious experience like reading the word of God, hearing the word preached to us, extraordinary religious encounter with God, the example of life of authentic believers and so forth.
Nineveh had an extraordinary display of mercy from God. It was not a believing city, not part of the people of the promise, not part of those who had encountered the God of Israel. Yet, when Jonah was sent to this lucky city, the word of God teaches us today that extraordinary repentance and conversion took place: they believed God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth from the king to the least; they cried mightily to God; they turned from their evil ways and the violence in their hands.
The inner repentance and conversion of ways and the external manifestation of sorrow for sins moved the heart of God to pardon Nineveh of its sins. God saw their broken and humbled hearts and did not spurn their cries unto Him. He forgave and healed them.
The city of Nineveh repented. Unfortunately, the people in our Lord's time did not. They were not converted through the good news that He brought. The stuck to their ways. This was why our Lord called them an evil generation. The Son of God was with them, yet they sought sign again to prove His origin. Instead of giving them any sign, our Lord told them that He was the sign. Anyone who could hear His preaching and repent would come to realize that the kingdom had arrived.
The tragedy however was that many heard and refused to believe. The greatest sign of God, the Son, was with them; yet they refused their assent of faith. He was greater than Solomon whose wisdom the queen of the south came from the ends of the earth to hear. The mercy of God was superabundantly available to them. Unfortunately, they were closed to it.
The season of Lent is another opportunity to examine our consciences and our lives. Are we like the Ninevites who repented of their sins and believed in the word and preaching of Jonah? Or are we more like the people of our Lord's generation who heard the original word from the Son of God but still refused to believe in Him? We must make a decision this Lent to follow God and abandon the evil ways we led our lives. May God grant us His mercy and compassion.
Let us pray: "Look kindly, Lord, we pray, on the devotion of your people, that those, who by self-denial are restrained in body, may by the fruit of good works be renewed in mind." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.