The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows: ‘You object, “What the Lord does is unjust.” Listen, you House of Israel: is what I do unjust? Is it not what you do that is unjust? When the upright man renounces his integrity to commit sin and dies because of this, he dies because of the evil that he himself has committed. When the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest, he deserves to live. He has chosen to renounce all his previous sins; he shall certainly live; he shall not die.’
First reading for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
First, let it be noted that ‘object’, the second word in the reported ‘word of the Lord’, is a verb and not a noun. God responds to our sometimes protest against him, but he does not name us as the blockheads we might sometimes be! I remember still how startled I was when I first heard a reader misspeak the text.
Second, whatever our resistance to God, he speaks to us and helps us to better understand his ways and repent of ours. His love has no end. It too is a verb!
Image derived from graphic seen in Cardiff, 2017. (c) 2017, Allen Morris.
The first reading at Mass on Sunday, the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, was taken from the book of Jonah.
The word of the Lord was addressed to Jonah: ‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare: it took three days to cross it. Jonah went on into the city, making a day’s journey. He preached in these words, ‘Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed.’ And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least.
God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour. And God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened.
Famously, Jonah is mighty displeased at the conversion of the Ninevites. He’d rather see them unrepentant and blasted into Kingdom come by the wrath of God.
Poor Jonah is not happy that Nineveh repents and that God is merciful! He would arrange things very much better!
And so might we. But again and again God reminds us our ways are not his ways, and more’s the pity! For us.
But the patience we lack with others, he lavished on us.
Makes you think, doesn’t it. Let it drive you to prayer too! And draw you, happily, to life.
Photograph of a happy chappy. Street art in Kraków, Poland. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.