Wednesday of the First Week in Lent
(Jonah 3:1-10; Luke 11:29-32)
In his Confessions St. Augustine relates how he had two mistresses. As he became aware of his call to holiness, he knew that he had to let go of sexual desire. Augustine begged God, “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.” He made the break when he randomly read a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: “…But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.” The conversion was as dramatic as that of the Ninevites after hearing the preaching of Jonah in today’s first reading.
The story of Jonah is more of a fable than real history. There is no record of a mass conversion in Nineveh or even a city so large that it would take three days to transverse. But the point is clear: people are called to repent from sinful ways. In the gospel Jesus laments that the people of his time refuse to repent with his preaching. Even though he displays wisdom greater than Solomon’s and virtue greater than Jonah’s was thought to have been, people still do not respond favorably. They only seek a sign to prove his legitimacy.
During Lent we are being called to give up sinful ways. For some this means giving Internet pornography a definitive “no.” Others may have to stop lying or to become more attentive to the needs of the poor. Yes, it is hard but we have not only the incentive of eternal life but also the support of the whole Church. Repentance, after all, is not a one in a million need. Everyone is called to it.