Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
(Jonah 3:1-10; Luke 11:29-32)
The Book of the Prophet Jonah has become one of the most popular readings of the Old Testament. For one thing it has a short, fascinating narrative. For another, it highlights the contemporary value of tolerance for other peoples. Also, as today’s gospel relates, Jesus uses the story to teach about his own mission.
Jesus refers to the great conversion that takes place with Jonah’s preaching. A city-state, perhaps as large and as notorious as Mexico City today, is imagined. Jonah might have been a reluctant preacher, but evidently his words had great power. He inspired everyone to change heart and conform to God’s ways. There are no historical records that such universal repentance ever took place in Nineveh or anywhere else. Nevertheless, Jesus knows that his preaching is even stronger than the heralded Jonah’s. He expects a conversion in Israel like Nineveh’s in the story of Jonah.
Repentance or conversion translate the Greek word metanoia. It literally means a change of mind. But as today’s psalm relates, conversion has more to do with a change of heart. The mind actively inquires, probes. and calculates. The heart, on the other hand, passively is moved by what impresses itself on it. True conversion implies that our hearts are no longer moved by sex, fame, or fortune. Rather, converted hearts feel grateful for God’s goodness and take pity on those living in misery.