God teaches by example through his Son. He taught us how to live, how to die, and everything in between. That everything in between seems like an enormous gulf, but it can be summed up in one word: repentance. Rethinking is another word for what God wants from us throughout our lives. That’s the theme of this Sunday’s readings. Rethinking is how we learn as humans and as God’s children. We are bound to make wrong choices, but our salvation lies in rethinking those. God’s grace gives us the freedom of that choice.
Our first reading from Jonah (JON 3:1-5, 10) gives us an example of God’s own repentance—as driven by our repentance. Nineveh was a town driving toward its own destruction. Jonah warned this town that God would destroy it for its evil ways. When its citizens repented, Jonah states “God repented of the evil he threatened to do to them.”
Scholars argue about the origins of that word. Some say it means to feel sorrow for something one does. Others say it means to rethink. Either way, nothing pleases God more than our repentance.
In his book, “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis writes that God never tires of forgiving us, but that we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. That’s why repentance must be treated as a muscle. It must be used every day or it will atrophy, and eventually it will be too difficult for us to exercise it.
“But what about those days I have nothing to repent about?”
Repent about your pride in asking such a thing. We always have reason to repent about our world-centric ways. As Paul advises the Corinthians in our second reading (1 COR 7:29-31), “Time is running out—let those using the world act as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.”
That passing away is a process of transformation, and we must transform ourselves to rise above the world by the time it falls away from us. What a great example the disciples give us in our gospel reading from Mark (MK 1:14-20). Look how they transformed themselves on a minute’s notice.
“Come after me and I will make you fishers of men,” Jesus told them. Then they abandoned their nets and followed him.
Just like that.
That instant repentance was a sign of their muscular souls. Let’s pray for that kind of spiritual strength—every day.