Last Sunday’s readings teach us that this fleeting world is just a stop on the way to a greater and better one, that will last forever. So it is very important to be spiritually detached from passing things.
In the first reading, the prophet Jonah begrudgingly warns the Ninevites that if they don’t repent of their sins, they will be destroyed. Ninevah was a large city near Mosul in Northern Iraq, and it was almost 960 kilometres to the East. The people were pagans and were traditional enemies of the Jews. This is why Jonah tried to run away and in fact caught a ship going in the opposite direction. However, after surviving a storm at sea and being swallowed by a whale and miraculously surviving, he eventually did God’s Will. The people in those days were humble of heart and from the greatest to the least they took the preaching of Jonah seriously, putting on sackcloth and ashes and repenting of their sins. The punishment which God warned about was conditional. It depended on them repenting of their sins. Due to their response that great city was spared.
God’s mercy is Conditional upon our Repentance!
God’s mercy is conditional upon our repentance. We should examine our consciences regularly and have a supreme hatred for sin, because it brings the gravest losses and misfortunes. In Confession, our sins are remitted through the power of the keys. However, we need sorrow and a firm purpose of avoiding sins in the future. These are two indispensable conditions for contrition. As Jesus said to the cripple He healed at pool of Bethsaida: Go and sin no more.The second reading teaches us that the ability to follow God’s Will is dependent upon the detachment of our hearts, which must be set on God and eternal life. The best things in life, for example marriage, are temporary. When we treat passing things of this life as if they had ultimate and lasting importance, we make idols of them and expect happiness from them, which they simply cannot provide. This leads to attachments and addictions. Instead, if we firstly seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, God will provide all that is necessary to live a life with dignity.
In today’s Gospel Jesus preaches the need to repent and believe in the Gospel. He calls Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. They had already met the Lord and now they respond to His call with generosity and detachment. They will later become Apostles and great Saints. We are all called to be disciples through Baptism. The Word of God should be the foundation of our lives.
Last Wednesday we celebrated the Feast of St Anthony of Egypt. He became the first monk and founder of monasticism. St Athanasius wrote his St Anthony’s life story during his time of exile, when he stayed with him in the desert. St Anthony was born in 251 in Egypt and died in 356. He as around nineteen years of age when he and his young sister lost both parents and were left a large inheritance. About six months later St Anthony was on his way to Sunday Mass and he had been pondering in his mind what to do with his life and thinking about how the disciples as we heard in today’s Gospel left everything to follow the Lord and how in the Acts of the Apostles the early members of the Church sold everything to give to the Church. The Gospel being proclaimed that Sunday was the that of the rich young man and how Jesus invited him to sell his possessions, give to the poor and come follow Him and he would have treasure in Heaven. St Anthony believed that the Gospel that day was meant especially for him and that it was God speaking to him. He decided to act immediately upon the words of Jesus and went and sold the three hundred fertile acres left to him, together with many other goods. He then gave the considerable sum of money to the poor, just keeping enough a little for his immediate needs and the upbringing of his young sister. The next Sunday he went to Mass and the Gospel being proclaimed was: Do not worry about tomorrow… That was it! He gave the remainder or what he had kept back to the poor, put his sister in a convent to be educated and brought up by some holy Nuns and then went out into the desert to become a hermit. He grew his own food and eventually others followed him, monasteries were constructed and St Anthony became the first Abbot. He had studied the Scriptures so well, that when very advanced in age and his eyesight began to fail, his memory served him well. The life of St Anthony is a fascinating and inspiring book, of which I have fond memories, being the first book on spirituality we read in seminary. He responded fully the Word of God and became a great Saint of the Church! Let’s be inspired to cherish the Scriptures and live them.
Praise be Jesus Christ now and forever!