Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (To the Greater Glory of God)
For: Sunday, January 24, 2021
3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
From: Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Jonah Preaches Repentance in Nineveh
 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying,  “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”  So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three day’s journey in breadth.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he cried, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
The People of Nineveh Do Penance
 And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it.
3:1-4:11 The second part of the book has a similar structure to the first--God and Jonah (3:1-3; cf. 1:1-3); Jonah and Gentiles (3:4-10; cf. 1:4-16); Jonah and God (4:1-11; cf. 1:17-2:10). However, the reader is now psychologically prepared for what will happen: Jonah’s preaching will produce the desired result and the Ninevites will be converted. So, the story is geared to the last chapter which poses and solves the question that chapter 3 provokes. The episode described in this second part is therefore a practical illustration of the scope of God’s mercy. It was used as such in the debate with the Gnostics who argued that there was a difference between the good God (the God revealed in the New Testament) and the God revealed in the Old Testament: “See how the stress is laid on the greatest name and quality of God, his Mercy; that is, God is patient with evildoers, and rich in mercy and compassion for those who recognize their faults and repent them, as the Ninevites did. If such a Being as he is so good, you [...] have to admit that he can do no evil for, as Marcion himself once said, a good tree cannot bear bad fruit (Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem, 2, 24).
3:1-4. God renews his command to Jonah. And this time Jonah obeys. Maybe the vows he promised to fulfill in 2:9 had to do with this--going to preach in Nineveh. Anyway, the success of his mission is assured, because it depends not on Jonah but on the Lord: it would take three days to cross Nineveh (v. 3), but he has only gone one day in his journey and the people convert (cf. 3:5).
3:5-10. The account of the conversion of the Ninevites looks like a straight copy from other biblical passages, particularly from the prophet Jeremiah: Jeremiah is the “prophet to the nations” (Jer 1:5), and Jonah is sent to the archetypal Gentile city. There are many little things in this passage that are reminiscent of Jeremiah: in the book of Jeremiah, Jerusalem is called the “great city”, which is what Nineveh is called here (1:2; 3:2; cf. Jer 22:8-9), and both books have similar turns of phrase such as “let every one turn from his evil way”, “man and beast”, “from the greatest to the least” (3:5, 8; cf. Jer 6:13; 8:10; 36:3,7), etc. This passage is particularly reminiscent of the call for a fast made by Jeremiah in the time of King Jehoiakim; in Jeremiah 36 we are told how the prophet warned of misfortunes to come and proclaimed a fast for conversion (Jer 36:9), but the king refused to listen. Jonah, too, announces the destruction of Nineveh, but it is the Ninevites themselves who proclaim a general fast, as if God were speaking through them. Their own king establishes what the fast will involve, and he issues a decree that sounds just like something a prophet would have said (vv. 7-9; cf. Joel 2:12-14). Furthermore, the king of the Ninevites seems to be quite familiar with biblical teaching, for he is well aware (cf. Jer 36:3, 9) that displays of penance will not automatically stay God’s hand; the king has a genuine change of heart and is ready to submit to God (v. 9), and when God sees that these people are ready to mend their ways he revokes his decision to punish them (v. 10) The episode bears out Jeremiah's teaching about repentance (cf. Jer 18 7-8).
The difference between the Ninevites and the Israelites can be seen in the use that Jesus makes of this passage when he compares his Jewish contemporaries with their ancestors: “The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold something greater than Jonah is here” (Mt 12:41). It is not surprising, then, that in Christian tradition, the Ninevites are referred to as a model of repentance “Let us cast our minds back over the history of men, and see how the Lord, in one generation after another, granted a time of penance to those who desired to be converted to him. Noah preached salvation, and those who listened to him were saved. Jonah told the Ninevites that their city would be destroyed and they repented of their sins and asked God for forgiveness and were saved by the power of their pleading, even though they were not part of the chosen people” (St Clement of Rome, Ad Corinthios, 7, 5-7).
And another text by a great Father of the Eastern Church says: “Do not dwell on how little time you have, but on the love of the Master. The inhabitants of Nineveh cooled God’s wrath in three days. They did not despair at how little time was left to them; their troubled souls won over the goodness of the Master, and he brought about their salvation” (St John Chrysostom, De Incomprehensibile Dei Natura, 6).
The Excellence of Virginity
 I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none,  and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods,  and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away.
29-31. In their letters, St Paul and the other Apostles frequently remind us that life is short (cf. Rom 13:11-14; 2 Pet 3:8; 1 Jn 2:15-17), in order to encourage us to make the very best use of our time to serve God, and others for his sake. "When I reflect on this, how well I understand St Paul's exclamation when he writes to the Corinthians, tempus breve est (1 Cor 7:29). How short indeed is the time of our passing through this world! For the true Christian these words ring deep down in his heart as a reproach to his lack of generosity, and as a constant invitation to be loyal. Brief indeed is our time for loving, for giving, for making atonement. It would be very wrong, therefore, for us to waste it, or to cast this treasure irresponsibly overboard. We must not squander this period of the world's history which God has entrusted to each one of us" (St. J. Escriva, Friends of God, 39).
A Christian, therefore, should always be detached from worldly things, and never let himself become the slave of anything or anyone (cf. 1 Cor 7:23; Lumen Gentium, 42) but, instead, always have his sights on eternal life. "It is a great help towards this", St Teresa of Avila teaches, "if we keep a very constant care of the vanity of all things, and the rapidity with which they pass away, so that we may withdraw our affections from everything and fix them on what will last forever. This may seem to be a poor kind of help but it will have the effect of greatly fortifying the soul. With regard to little things, we must be very careful, as soon as we begin to be fond of them, to think no more about them and to turn our thoughts to God. His majesty will help us to do this" (Way of Perfection, chap. X).