Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
Book of the Prophet Jonah 3:1-10, Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19, & Luke 11:29-32
The story of Jonah reminds me of the caricature we often see of the wild-haired, bearded, unusually bug-eyed, sign-carrying prophet of doom who proclaims that the end of the world is near. These cartoons are usually humorous, and if by chance we encounter such a person on the street, we more than likely treat them like the cartoon—we ignore them.
Yet the people of Nineveh, a vast city, listened to someone very much like our cartoon character, and they repented within one day. What power Jonah must have exuded! He must have conveyed the sincerity, the truth, and the reality of his message. Even the king, the one who had the most to lose by changing the status quo, sat in sackcloth covered in ashes and repented.
In the Gospel narrative of Saint Luke, Jesus tells us, “No sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” What was the sign? The passage from Jonah is silent, and our Lord does not elaborate any further. I believe the answer is that Jonah was a true messenger from God, speaking God’s message to a people who listened. His power came not from miracles or signs but from the message and how it was delivered.
The psalmist reminds us that God values a contrite and humbled heart, exactly what the people of Nineveh realized when they listened to Jonah. The psalmist puts into words our prayer for this Lenten season, “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.” Jesus’ presence is far greater than Jonah's, and His listeners, including us, receive a clearer pronouncement of God’s call to us.
Question of the Day: Will you thank God for His many blessings and ask Him to keep you humble and contrite of heart?
Prayer: “A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.” (Psalm 51)