God had to ask Jonah twice (and it was all right)
A Reflection for the Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
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” (Jon 3:1).
I had to read today’s first reading twice to understand what was going on. When I hear Jonah, I think whale, and there is no whale in this story. That came earlier. In this reading, we learn what happens after the whale. When Jonah, chastened, does what God asks of him and calls upon the city of Nineveh to repent, they do what he says. The people repent. God withholds his wrath. Everything goes as planned.
But God had to ask Jonah twice.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus speaks to the crowd: “This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.”
The crowd wants a sign. But they don’t even get one sign, when Jonah got two. It does seem unfair.
Very few of us will hear from God in the way Jonah did. But we have the record of Jonah. He (eventually) listened to what God asked him to do. And the city of Nineveh was spared. If we listen to God’s call to repent, things will (eventually) work out.
Perhaps no sign will be given to this generation either. We certainly won’t get a whale. But we can study the Scriptures for signs of God’s grace.
How many times do we need to hear from God before we do what is asked of us? Jonah may seem like a poor excuse for a prophet, but he finally did do what God asked of him. For me at least, sometimes God’s invitation goes unanswered for a much longer period of time.
What to do? Perhaps no sign will be given to this generation either. We certainly won’t get a whale. But we can study the Scriptures for signs of God’s grace. We can repent and clear away the clutter of our lives to see where God is already at work. We can quiet the noise and see the goods already in front of us. And maybe that will be enough. Maybe we will stop asking for signs.
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What are you giving up for Lent?
In past years, I have given up beer, but this year our plan is to do something together as a family, so we are working on a Lenten Tree.
Do you cheat on Sundays?
No, but sometimes on St. Patrick’s Day.
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