“And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.” (Jonah 3:5)
To repent is to acknowledge my sinfulness before God, to be truly sorry and to ask forgiveness from God. Repentance begins from the heart and finds expression in physical actions such as FASTING, SELF-DENIAL or SELF-HUMILIATION. Back in the days, the wearing of sackcloths and sitting on ashes were powerful symbols of contrition and sorrow for sins. This is why we apply ashes on our heads at the beginning of Lent.
Nowadays, instead of wearing sackcloths as a sign of repentance, contrition and humility, we now take advantage of bringing ourselves before the priest at the sacrament of penance (Confession). Like the people of Nineveh, going to confess our sins is equivalent of self-punishment in that it makes us let go of our personal pride, owing up to our faults and pointing fingers inwards.
Virtually all the spiritual masters and saints recommend regular confession at least once a week. If you put off confession for more than a week, the weaker you become spiritually. The truth is that the more we repent of a particular sin, the more we confess it, and because we confess it repeatedly, we begin to develop resistance to its temptations and soon enough, that sin becomes a thing of the past. Never be too ashamed to confess your sin, the more you hide it, the more the devil makes you believe it is okay.
Dear friends, the people of Nineveh did not simply sit in their rooms to ask for God’s forgiveness, they publicly humiliated themselves, they proclaimed a fast from the greatest of them to the least. Of course, I can always sit in my room to ask for God’s forgiveness, but if I am really serious about repenting from that sin, I must talk about it, I must confess it and do some penance for it.
We are told that “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them, and he did not do it.” (Jonah 3:10). In other words, repentance moves God. The more I repent and leave my sins behind, the brighter my future will be. Who knows what calamities I could have attracted to myself due to my sins?
In our Gospel passage, Jesus would not allow Martha to take Mary from his presence because for him, she had chosen the better part. What is the better part? What is the one thing that is needful? What was it that Mary chose which was not to be taken from her? It is complete trust in God; it is making God himself our highest priority in life.
Martha was distracted with serving Jesus so much so that she didn’t have time even to listen to Jesus; to worship Him and spend time in His Presence. Like Martha, I could be working for Jesus but if I allow sin fester within me by putting off confession, if I do not create time for personal meditation and prayers, I would be missing out of the good portion.
On the last day, it is not my sweat and energy for Jesus that will count, it is not the number of houses and churches I built for Jesus that will count but my spiritual life. In Luke 13:26-27, we read: “Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’”
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, give me the grace of true repentance and contrition for my sins and in my busy-ness for you, may I not miss heaven at last. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Jonah 3:1-10, Psalm 130 and Luke 10:38-42).