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(Part 22)


February 17, 2016

Today’s readings:
Jonah 3:1-10
Psalm 51:3-19
Luke 11:29-32

We are living in times of darkness and a tsunami of evil is upon the whole world. As Jesus said then, it can be said now, “This generation is an evil generation” (Lk 11:29b). Because of such great evil, the world stands condemned. It deserves the just punishment of God. Just as with Nineveh, time is running out for the world. “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” (Jon 3:4b).

Woe to us! Is there a way out? Yes, there is always the mercy of God. What is mercy? It is withholding the just punishment due us for our transgressions. As with Nineveh, God “repented of the evil he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.” (Jon 3:10b). What caused that to happen? The people repented. “They proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.” (Jon 3:5b). Now God is always merciful, and He bestows mercy freely on His people. But for us to appropriate and experience such mercy, we need to turn away from sin and turn back to God. It is “when God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way” (Jon 3:10a) that he did not carry out their just punishment.

We have sinned, and we continue to sin. But we can always look to the mercy of God. “Man and beast alike must be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; they all must turn from their evil way and from the violence of their hands.” (Jon 3:8). This is the definition of repentance. It is a turning away from sin and a turning back to God. And mercy is always an invitation to repentance.

So we can always look to the mercy of God. “Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love; in your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions.” (Ps 51:3). We do have our part to play. First, we must acknowledge our sinfulness. “For I know my transgressions; my sin is always before me.” (Ps 51:5). Second, we must desire to turn away from sin and live according to God’s ways. “Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure” (Ps 51:9a). Third, we must open ourselves up to the continuing work of the Holy Spirit, who guides us and empowers us to live chaste lives. “A clean heart create for me, God; renew within me a steadfast spirit.” (Ps 51:12).

Having experienced the mercy of God, having turned back to God, we must then share with others what God has done for us, so that they too will do what we have done. “I will teach the wicked your ways, that sinners may return to you.” (Ps 51:15). We need to proclaim the gospel to a sinful world, a world that is spiraling into perdition. Though deep in darkness and evil, there is always hope. “Who knows? God may again repent and turn from his blazing wrath, so that we will not perish.” (Jon 3:9). The king of Nineveh was hoping for God’s mercy. For our part, we know of God’s mercy. We have seen Jesus crucified on the cross for our sins.

The Ninevites repented and were saved, as the prophet Jonah called them to repentance. Jesus has also called us to repentance and went further to pay the price for our sins. To not accept his great mercy is to stand condemned. “At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.” (Lk 11:32).

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