And God Repented of The Evil He Threatened
In Jonah’s experience, God’s word is very powerful if we bring it to people in the name of God and if they are open to it. It is good to ponder on this phrase: “God repented of the evil that he had threatened…” It is weighty.
A hospitable family or person makes guests feel at home and gives them the best available. But if we are truly hospitable we are also listening to the guest and to receive from him or her perhaps more than we give and in a deeper way. We receive the guest as a person. God presents himself in the Bible as a traveler on a journey. He asks for hospitality as a stranger or a poor person. Christ also says that in the homeless we welcome him.
1 Reading: Jonah 3:1-10
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.” So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD’s bidding. Now Nineveh was an enormously large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes. Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his nobles: “Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; every man shall turn from his evil way and from the violence he has in hand. Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath, so that we shall not perish.” When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.
Responsorial Psalm: PS 130:1b-2, 3-4ab, 7-8
R. (3) If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, who can stand?
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD
LORD, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to my voice in supplication. R.
If you, O LORD, mark iniquities,
LORD, who can stand?
But with you is forgiveness,
that you may be revered. R.
Let Israel wait for the LORD,
For with the LORD is kindness
and with him is plenteous redemption;
And he will redeem Israel
from all their iniquities. R.
Alleluia: Luke 11:28
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are those who hear the word of God
and observe it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel: Luke 10:38-42
Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
The lesson to be learned from the Jonah story, like any authentic parable, is singular and in this case clear at a first read reading. God has concern for all people, even a one-time enemy. At Jonah’s reluctant preaching, all the people, from greatest to least, repent of their sins and don sackcloth, the symbol of repentance. The king orders a strict fast from food and drink for all the people, with the hope that God will turn from his threatened punishment.
The family of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus were evidently close to Jesus. He will visit them again on the occasion of Lazarus’s death. Mary is intent on listening to Jesus, while Martha is busy attending to the needs of their special guest. The Lord is unquestionably appreciative of Martha’s concerns in providing for his needs. But the meditative Mary is involved in a more important pursuit, that of listening to and weighing the word of Christ.
The task of preparing the Sunday homilies is a sacred one. It is five, ten or more minutes of the week in which people are in tune and receptive to the word of God. The homily is a sacred trust. As the story of Jonah goes, the Ninevites are open to and receptive of the call of the prophet. The same should be true of us. Our failings become clear to us from the word of God, which like a sword cuts to the quick and can result in a complete change of heart. If an unenthusiastic preaching could bring such a massive change, what about a willing and well-prepared sermon.
Jesus promised not to leave us orphans. He calls us to a deeper love, to a sense of sorrow for sin, to conversion, and our rightful place in the kingdom. The response is ours. Let us pray that we harden not our hearts.
In this Eucharist we have been the Lord’s own guests. He has been very hospitable to us, listening to us and speaking to us his warm words of friendship. He sends us out now to be one another’s guests and hosts. Welcome now the blessing of almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!