The Responsorial Psalm tells us the kind of conversion that gives us confidence: "A broken, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn" (Ps. 51).
If we convert to being authentic disciples of Jesus, will things really get better in this world? Will it make a real difference?
Jonah 3: 1-10 gives us reason to trust that it will. Nineveh (in modern-day Iraq) was a city so bad that Jonah actually wanted it destroyed. When God told him to call its citizens to conversion, he took ship, trying to flee from God's presence - and wound up indigestible fish food!
But when he did proclaim that Nineveh was about to be destroyed, they converted. And they did it with a "broken, humbled heart." The same thing can happen with us.
In Luke 11: 29-32 Jesus uses the example of Nineveh to call his own people to conversion: "The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!" We are called to respond, not to the words of a prophet, but to the words of Jesus himself, God made flesh. How can we ignore his words? How can we neglect to read them all, reflect on them, and try to put them into practice?
We may ask, "Isn't it enough just to live by what we were taught in our religious formation as children, supplemented by the homilies we hear on Sunday? Why do we have to keep reading and reflecting on God's word?"
The first reason is that no teacher or statement of doctrine can affect us as much as getting into contact with Jesus himself through his words. The goal of our religion is to know God and love him as a person. Secondly, as we mature and develop we are able to see more in Christ's teaching than we could before. Learning from Jesus is a lifelong project. It is never complete.
The "sign of Jonah" is the Church. The only risen body of Christ visible on earth today is Jesus manifestly alive in members of his body who are clearly and unambiguously living by his Spirit. Christians bearing this witness are the only Church that can call the world to conversion. This is the Church we have to be. This is a Church of disciples.
Initiative: Be a disciple. During Lent cultivate a "broken, humbled heart"
- which does NOT mean a sad or guilt-ridden heart! It means a heart "broken open" to the word of God because it is not smug in its self-righteousness or complacent in what it knows already about Christ's teachings - or about his mind and heart. Be a disciple: set aside a time to sit at Christ's feet and learn.