March 8, 2017
Wednesday, Lent Week One
A Complete Make-over
The Responsorial (Psalm 51) is an insight into God: "A broken, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.”
Jonah 3: 1-10 is a story of conversion. That is what Lent is all about and what the Liturgy of the Word calls us to: metanoia. We translate the word as “repentance,” but it literally means more: a “change of mind,” a “complete makeover” of all that determines who we are as persons: our life-goal; means chosen to achieve it; priority given to those means over the means to lesser or even contradictory goals. Metanoia is direction-finding. And what initiates and sustains it is response to God’s voice, however it is received.
Continued attention to God’s voice, and continued response to it is called discipleship. Lent is offered as a short time of intense discipleship to give an extra push to metanoia.
The people of Nineveh got the invitation, responded, and were saved. The Scripture says, “God repented of the evil he had threatened to do to them.” What Scripture calls God’s “repentance” is just the mirror-image we see of our own — just as the “evil” God threatens is in reality God’s observation of the evil we are already doing to ourselves.
Is there any difference between Jonah’s voice sounding in the streets of Nineveh — “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed” — and God’s voice sounding in our ears through the readings proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word? The Church says there isn’t. The action we take, or don’t take, in response reveals what we say.
Forty days? Forty years? The time-frame is not the message. The message is, “Sin is destroying us; conversion will save us.” The carrot and the stick; if we doubt either one we are fools. But the carrot is the one to focus on. “Repentance” is a joyful word in Scripture, because the call to it always includes the promise of the Holy Spirit poured out to “create a clean heart” in us and “renew within us a steadfast spirit.” “Repent” is really a proclamation about God: “A broken, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.”
In Luke 11: 29-32 Jesus says, “You have a greater than Jonah here.” Is he still saying that? To us? If so, where is he? Can we hear his voice?
The “sign of Jonah” is the Church. Jesus risen from the dead was a “sign” to those who saw him. But he is only a sign today when he is visible, and visibly risen from the dead in the Church that is his body. In us.
When we “rise” from the death and darkness of whatever pit our culture led us into, we are the “sign of Jonah.” When we live in a way that reveals the divine life of Christ in us, we are the sign of Jonah. To those who “sit in darkness and the shadow of death” Jesus warned, “no other sign will be given.”
That puts a heavy responsibility on us. But if we let Jesus carry it with, in and through us, we will find the shared yoke easy and the shared burden light.
Initiative: Be a sign. Live a lifestyle inexplicable without the life of God in you.