He makes all things new
Today’s reading (Jonah 3:1-10):
‘The word of the Lord was addressed a second time 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 King of Nineveh and his people (the Ninevites) show great faith in their reaction to Jonah’s warning. They don’t waste a second by overly contemplating Jonah’s warning or questioning it. Rather, they react immediately and do something positive to avoid the wrath of God.
Can you imagine a poor soul walking through Glasgow or Edinburgh today, shouting aloud about the impending destruction of the city? Would the reaction of the city’s mayor be the same as the king of Nineveh? Would the mayor call a fast and insist a renunciation of all evil behaviour? It would be accurate to suggest that the reaction would be entirely different and a modern day Jonah would most likely be carted off to be assessed by medical staff.
Today’s world is a different place in some respects; it is probably further removed from God and more cynical. Yet the situation we find ourselves in isn’t all that different from that in the reading. God is still watching over us. He is still aware of our every move. He is still aware of our sinfulness.
With that in mind shouldn’t we consider what more we can do to remove that sinfulness from our world? Every prayer we offer up and each tiny sacrifice through fasting helps to beat off sin with good. We are called this Lent to do more to help others in our world. Not everyone has the gift of faith in their lives. We must be modern day Jonah’s and help our brothers and sisters. Yet we don’t need to go into the city to warn people about God’s wrath. Rather, we need to go into the city to tell people that they are saved; saved by the love and mercy of Christ on the Cross. Point to the Cross. Point to those wooden beams and the figure that hangs from it. That figure is God made man. He is the one who came to show us the way to live forever. And this Good News is not something we should keep to ourselves. On the contrary, we are called to spread that news to all. Consider being a Jonah this Lent. Tell your family, your friends, your colleagues; tell everyone about that man on the Cross. It is He who makes all things new…