The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything. They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water.
Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.”
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Jonah is a “comedy of errors.” The prophet, fleeing from God, is swallowed by a big fish. After seeking forgiveness, he gets spit up on shore. Now a true convert back on plan, Jonah preaches hellfire to some really bad people. Destruction is a sure thing. But then a miracle! The Ninevites hear, express contrition, and repent. And God, in turn, “repented of [that] which he threatened to do.”
Why? What could override the judgment of our all-powerful, all-knowing all-present God? Simple answer? Our repentance! God knows us, and loves us as we are. God is not vindictive. He is the God of Second Chances. He would rather forgive.
So this Lenten season, when I start thinking “Is this all really worth it? Will God really forgive me again?” I do well to remember the king of Nineveh’s words: “Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not.”
—Howard Craig serves as Provincial Assistant for Advancement on behalf of the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Province Jesuits.
God, here I am again. As I pause to reflect on my day, I confess that I have not always done as I ought and that once again today I am in need of your forgiveness and grace. All I ask for is another chance, another opportunity to follow your path for my life and serve you as I ought. Thank you, God, for your grace and love which are always forgiving and always redeeming me. Amen.
—Howard CraigPlease share the Good Word with your friends!