The Responsorial Psalm invites us to recognize that we always need to change things in our lives and
society: “If you, O Lord, laid bare our guilt, who could endure it?” (Psalm 130).
In Jonah 3:1-10, when the people heard Jonah’s proclamation, they believed him. But more than that, they expressed it in action. They made immediate changes in their lives: they began to fast and to wear clothes that said they were doing penance — which means examining their lives, turning to God with willingness to change. And the king of Nineveh ordered that the people should go beyond these symbolic expressions of metanoia (a “change of mind“) and make substantial changes in social policies and practices: changes in family and social life, in business and politics. He specifically singled out violence: “Every man shall turn from his evil ways and from the violence he has in hand.” It was the whole society of Nineveh that God was threatening to destroy; so it was the whole society that needed to accept and initiate changes
The response the Church has us make to this reading is, “If you, O Lord, laid bare our guilt, who could endure it?” If God actually made manifest all the policies and practices in our country and of our country — business deals, the deals our government makes behind closed doors, the decisions about domestic and foreign policy that never make the news, or that make it but are reported with so much “spin” that no one realizes what we are actually doing as a nation — if God actually “laid bare our guilt, who could endure it?” And if he does not lay bare our guilt — or we don’t — and we do not change our ways, is there anyone who doubts that our society is headed for destruction? To take just one example, how deep do we have to bury our heads in the sand not to see that when there is such discrepancy between the rich and the poor in our country and in others, and such a gap between our country and whole populations in other countries living in misery, that it is just a matter of time before “whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores”? 1
What will we do about it? As a steward of the kingship of Christ, what are you doing about it? Are you hearing Jonah’s voice here?
Luke 10: 38-42 shows us one thing we all can do — not as a cop-out, but for starters. Like Mary, we can pray. We can pray seriously, in private and in public. We can admit our guilt and ask God for mercy and guidance. We can acknowledge that we have brought terrorism upon ourselves and seek a solution in conversion rather than in violence.
1 See Edwin Markham’s “Man With a Hoe.”
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Open your eyes and help steer the boat.