Once upon a time during my early boyhood, with all the adventures that accompanied it, I broke my dad’s favorite drinking glass cup. It was not an accident; it was my carelessness because my mum warned me twice while I was doing the dishes to be careful as I was doing an “Olympic swimming demonstration” with the cup and other cups I termed contestant in the “sport” taking place in the dishwashing bowl.
When the drinking glass dropped from my hands to the floor, my mum echoed “I warned you, your dad would soon come back from work, be ready for his punishment. My dad’s penalties were usually nerved straining, and I dared them. I could neither eat nor drink, and it seemed he was taking his time to come back. When he finally arrived and saw how pale and fearful, I was looking he sensed that something was not okay, and when my mum reported the episode to him, he smiled and asked me to be careful next time. He let me go without any punishment because he could sense my remorse and penitence.
The story of Jonah and the people of Nineveh is not strange to us. Initially, Jonah wanted to evade the divine mission to go and preach to the people of Nineveh. However, events would bring him back to the city of Nineveh and the narrative today tells us that he entered the great city, which would take a three-day journey, to preach repentance. Just on the first day, the people accepted the word of God and repented, from the king to the least person in the city.
There is a note of urgency in the three Readings of this Sunday. In the Second Reading (1 Cor. 7:29-31), St. Paul tells us about the need to become more austere with the things we have and refrain from various indulgent behaviors because the world in its present form is passing away. In the Gospel Reading (Mark 1:14-20), John the Baptist continues the message by calling for urgent repentance because of the nearness of the Kingdom of God. Still, in the Gospel narrative, we learn about the urgency of the call to discipleship which involves leaving everything to follow Jesus Christ.
The message today invites us to answer the urgent call to repentance. Repentance should be an on-going exercise in our lives. Every day provides an opportunity for us to become the better version of ourselves. Today, our lives represent the city of Nineveh. The word of God is the Jonah that is walking through the length and breadth of our lives inviting us to drop the old ways and to adopt the new life. The instruction of St. Paul in the Second Reading urges us not to be complacent but to live for a positive change.
The message of this Sunday is part of the New Year reality which involves the courage to drop our old ways of life and to change like the people of Nineveh. Often it is not easy to leave the former way of life (Isaiah 43:18), but it is after all gainful when we do so; that is the route to the new reality (Isaiah 43:19).
There is nobody among us that do not need repentance. The word of God says that if we say we have no sin we lie, and the truth is not in us (1 John1:8). Our returning to God, which is repentance anyway, is an urgent activity. Isaiah (55:6-7) tells us to seek God when we can find him and to call Him when He is still near.
As we march into a new week and deeper into the New Year, there is the need for us to look inward to dictate the areas of repentance in our lives. Have a great Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.