Posted by: fvbcdm | March 18, 2015

Feast of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (18 March 2015)

Just imagine being either a shepherd back in Nineveh or the shepherd’s wife when the prophet Jonah came through, preaching repentance for sin to the enormous population of Nineveh. He required that every human being there wear sackcloth—burlap—as a sign of their repentance, AND that all the animals do the same. So if you were a shepherd, you’d have to go buy enough burlap to clothe yourself and your family AND all your sheep in it! And then, after you had bought all that sackcloth from the burlap weaver, your wife had to make garments for you, herself, the children, and the 50 sheep in your flock! That’s a lot of burlap, a lot of expense, a lot of work, and a great deal of discomfort.

Fortunately, the book of Jonah is not to be taken literally. It is an amusing parable having to do with the importance of repentance, and would probably not have made it into the Christian bible except for the fact that Jesus quotes it in his preaching. So we don’t have to sit around, trying to figure out how Jonah remained alive in the belly of the whale for three days, given the lack of oxygen there and the acidity of the digestive juices! But when the Church presents us with the passage from the Book of Jonah, and then Jesus’s use of it in the gospel, we are being reminded that Lent is the special season for penance, and that all of us are in need of penance and contrition.

Unfortunately, we can’t repent once and for all, and from then on have no need of it. You see, we sin in little ways daily, and therefore we must repent daily. In the formula of the morning offering that I say each morning, I offer to God all that happens to me and by me that day for a number of intentions, one of them being “in reparation for my sins.” It’s an ongoing process. Sin—repentance; sin—repentance. By God’s grace, we minimize our sins, both in numbers and in gravity, but most of us do not achieve total perfection in this life. So, the need for repentance, and its concrete expression—penance. So during this holy season of Lent, let us try to make it even more sincere and meaningful when we say, “Forgive us our trespasses.” Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note: This message was composed some years ago.

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