A meditation on the Readings of the Day. See Readings on USCCB.
Discern the message well. Turn to Him and say “Teach me your ways, O Lord.” When you turn you will see His arms wide open like the Father in the familiar Prodigal Son story. You will see them wide open on the Cross in Jesus, who carries our sins and sends His Spirit to wash our sins away from our souls.
I can humbly ask, “Is God my teacher?” He taught the pagans of Ninevah through His prophet Jonah. They listened and repented. What kind of society was this? Something we do not hear in today’s reading was that they had a king. Ninevah was the capital of Assyria, a people who had just plundered and conquered the northern tribes of Israel. When Johah went through town with the message the king took note. Verses 6-9 tell us:
When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh: “By decree of the king and his nobles, no man or beast, no cattle or sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and beast alike must be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; they all must turn from their evil way and from the violence of their hands. Who knows? God may again repent and turn from his blazing wrath, so that we will not perish.”
The King led the people. The psalm verse says, He guides the humble to justice and teaches the humble his way. The king was humble and listened and discerned well, leading the people into repentance, and the Lord relented of the evil that He had threatened to do. I use the word relented on purpose, for when speaking of God it is a more appropriate translation.
Why? Because as we pray in the psalm, we know God’s love and compassion are from of old. Goodness and kindness are His essence; God does not repent of evil, because evil only exists in His absence. To relent is to mitigate a harsh intention. To repent is to express sincere remorse. The evil that was to come to the Ninevites was a consequence of their own actions, not an act of God. They repented. God relented of allowing the consequences of their evil actions that were going to come about through His permissive will.
St. Paul tells us in the second reading that time is running out — that the world in its present form is passing away. For people of faith this is true everyday, every moment, not just presently. We know that we pass from former ways to new ways, that through Baptism we die to sin spiritually and are born into eternal life with our Creator. Jesus conquered death by dying. We, too, as a people of faith turn to the Father every moment. We live in Christ. We continually live through His death, and His Resurrection. Unlike the Ninevites, we have the Holy Spirit present in our hearts teaching us and strengthening us for the journey to Heaven, which will pass through our own death. Nothing in this world will go with us through death except our relationship with God.
Today Jesus proclaims the Kingdom in the Gospel reading. It is interesting to note that Jonah’s proclamation was via the negative way, “you shall be destroyed.” Jesus’ way is different. Indeed, He says to repent, but He does this by saying, Come after Me. Last week He said, “Come, and you will see” (Jn 1:39). He is our King, but He is no earthly king like the Assyrian king who put on sackcloth. He is our God With Us who beckons us to follow His ways every moment. He is the God Man who heals all our infirmities, and who accompanies us in our suffering.
His arms are wide open. All I need to do is look at a crucifix to see the love that God has for me. And you. All He asks is for us to live in His love. When we do this, the world in its present form passes away.