In the readings for this Sunday, Jan. 21, repentance is the key. From the winning failure of Jonah (winning for Nineveh, yet failing himself), to Paul’s urgent message of time running out, to Jesus taking the baton from John; we see that now is the time to respond to God’s invitation to salvation.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
In the readings for this Sunday, Jan. 21, we get a small preview of Lent. “Forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed,” says God. Jonah is charged to bring that message to his enemies helping them (reluctantly) to come to God, all the while moving away from God himself in his unwillingness to forgive. He’s not keen on extending the forgiveness that he had received from God to others. Paul urges us to stop whatever we’re doing and check our relationship with God. It’s also a call to make sure that we have given everyone in our lives an opportunity to hear the Gospel — that’s our mission. To live an authentic relationship with God means to extend that relationship to others — especially our enemies. Jesus tells us in the Gospel that this is the time of fulfillment. It’s the time for God’s purpose to be fulfilled in the world and in each of us.
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
When the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.
Teach me your ways, O Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:29-31
I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.
“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
If you blink, you’ll miss Ordinary Time. We’re in week three already, and Ash Wednesday is Feb. 14. Our readings today offer a teaser for Lent — repentance is the theme. First we hear a snippet of one of the best and worst repentance stories in the Bible. Jonah, a great prophet (as long as he’s telling the people things they want to hear) is called to go to his worst enemies and bring them God’s forgiveness. He really doesn’t want to, so he tries to hide. It doesn’t work. God brings him back and gives him another chance to repent, and do what God asked of him. Reluctantly and begrudgingly, he does it. To Jonah’s horror, the people of Nineveh — the people Jonah hates the most and can’t comprehend God’s desire to forgive them — immediately respond, repent and believe. We don’t hear it in this reading today, but Jonah refuses to accept God’s forgiveness of Nineveh, and waits on a hill to watch them be destroyed. All he gets is sunburn and a more deeply hardened heart. The ones who didn’t know God were saved; the one who should have known God better and who had been given many chances to be forgiven himself, threw away his salvation because he thought he knew better than God.
Our second reading comes with a sense of urgency — time is running out! We need to stop going about our usual business and pay attention to what’s important. This is not a loop-hole for husbands to shirk their duties, but is a call to everyone to shake off the malaise of daily life and look at what’s happening around us. The world is a mess and we can’t ignore it. We need to take up the prophetic role that we were given at our baptism and speak the words that our world needs to hear. We need to speak God’s truth, God’s love, and God’s correction where we see injustice.
The Gospel shows the baton pass from John the Baptist to Jesus. John is arrested, and Jesus takes up his message, using John’s own words. Jesus continues to call people to him who he knows will embrace their prophetic vocation and bring his healing to the ends of the earth. Repentance is healing — it’s acknowledging what is wrong in our lives and allowing God to fix it.
Have you ever seen the Veggie Tales movie, “Jonah”? If yes, what was your favorite part? If not, see if you can watch it this week.
Who are you most like in the story of Jonah — are you like the people of Nineveh, ready to hear God’s correction and change, or are you like Jonah who thinks everybody else should change? How open are you to bringing God’s mercy and repentance to your enemies? Who are your enemies (hint: they are the people you would rather see suffer for hurting you, than helping them to heal)?
What urgency do you see in our world today; what needs our immediate attention? What can you do about it? How can you pick up the baton that John passed to Jesus, and Jesus passed to the Apostles, and they passed to us? Who do you need to extend the baton to?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
Have a family movie night this week and watch the Veggie Tales movie “Jonah” and discuss.
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”