Jonah figures prominently in both readings for this Wednesday, just one week after we began this Lenten Season. The people listen to Jonah and repent of their wrongdoing. They were scared by his message. The God of Israel was known by the surrounding countries as a powerful God. Even the king was frightened by the prospect of the destruction of the great city of Nineveh.
In the responsorial psalm, we hear the opening verses of the great penitential psalm of King David whose conduct with Uriah and with Bathsheba has been exposed by Nathan the prophet. I have always marveled at the fact that David describes God with three words before he even mentions his sin. Only after speaking of God’s mercy, goodness, and compassion does he speak of his offense, his guilt and his sin. A careful look at the Hebrew words used for these six different terms shows that David knows that God has enough forgiveness to blot out any sin, no matter how heinous. David is guilty of murder and adultery. One cannot get much worse, and David knows it.
If Nathan and Jonah were so successful in evoking repentance from the sinners to whom they preached, why is Jesus rejected by the people. Perhaps it was because they, unlike the Ninevites and David, were not afraid of God’s wrath. Jesus does not usually threaten people. He simply invites people to repent as he did with Levi. Perhaps invitations to repent are not convincing enough. How sad that people seem to have to be threatened before they will return God’s love and mercy with a true conversion. God invites us to change our lives. What is our response to this invitation? God has given us everything that is good about our lives. God is waiting for our RSVP.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator