Despite our many sins and failures, God remains committed to us, looking at us patiently and mercifully in the face of our faults. He loves us even when we do things that hurt our relationship with him. — from Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love
Can you imagine seven prominent men of Boston or Denver banding together, leaving their homes and professions, and going into solitude for a life directly given to God? That is what happened in the cultured and prosperous city of Florence in the middle of the 13th century. The city was torn with political strife as well as the heresy of the Cathari, who believed that physical reality was inherently evil. Morals were low and religion seemed meaningless.
In 1240 seven noblemen of Florence mutually decided to withdraw from the city to a solitary place for prayer and direct service of God. Their initial difficulty was providing for their dependents, since two were still married and two were widowers.
Their aim was to lead a life of penance and prayer, but they soon found themselves disturbed by constant visitors from Florence. They next withdrew to the deserted slopes of Monte Senario.
In 1244, under the direction of St. Peter of Verona, O.P., this small group adopted a religious habit similar to the Dominican habit, choosing to live under the Rule of St. Augustine and adopting the name of the Servants of Mary. The new Order took a form more like that of the mendicant friars than that of the older monastic Orders.
Members of the community came to the United States from Austria in 1852 and settled in New York and later in Philadelphia. The two American provinces developed from the foundation made by Father Austin Morini in 1870 in Wisconsin.
Community members combined monastic life and active ministry. In the monastery, they led a life of prayer, work and silence while in the active apostolate they engaged in parochial work, teaching, preaching and other ministerial activities.
The time in which the seven Servite founders lived is very easily comparable to the situation in which we find ourselves today. It is "the best of times and the worst of times," as Dickens once wrote. Some, perhaps many, feel called to a countercultural life, even in religion. All of us are faced in a new and urgent way with the challenge to make our lives decisively centered in Christ.
"Let all religious therefore spread throughout the whole world the good news of Christ by the integrity of their faith, their love for God and neighbor, their devotion to the Cross and their hope of future glory.... Thus, too, with the prayerful aid of that most loving Virgin Mary, God's Mother, 'Whose life is a rule of life for all,' religious communities will experience a daily growth in number, and will yield a richer harvest of fruits that bring salvation" (Vatican II, Decree on the Renewal of Religious Life, 25).
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: "Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you." So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD's bidding. Now Nineveh was an enormously large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day's walk announcing, "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed," when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.
When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes. Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his nobles: "Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; every man shall turn from his evil way and from the violence he has in hand. Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath, so that we shall not perish." When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.
Responsorial Psalm PS 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19
R. (19b) A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices; should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it. My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Verse Before the Gospel Jl 2:12-13
Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart for I am gracious and merciful.
Gospel Lk 11:29-32
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here."
Some thoughts on today's scripture
▪ Jonah converted the great city of Nineveh by his godliness and his preaching, not by miracles. Holiness is a greater marvel than special effects, but less easily recognised. The spectacular is what draws the crowds. Lord your hand is more evident in saintliness than in extraordinary signs. Open my eyes to your work in my sisters and brothers.
I begin to talk to Jesus about the piece of scripture I have just read. What part of it strikes a chord in me? Perhaps the words of a friend - or some story I have heard recently - will slowly rise to the surface in my consciousness. If so, does the story throw light on what the scripture passage may be trying to say to me?
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.
The Seven Holy Founders of the Servite Order (Optional Memorial)
The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time. (Jonah 3:1)
What would you do if someone gave you a do-over on some important opportunity that you passed up? What about a second chance to undo some hurtful thing you did or said to a friend? You'd take it, of course!
In today's first reading, God gives Jonah a second chance. When he first told Jonah to go to Nineveh and prophesy, Jonah refused. It took a few days inside of a huge fish for Jonah to come to his senses. And when he did, God happily gave him a do-over. He didn't begrudge his reluctant prophet. In fact, he acted as if Jonah's first disobedience never existed!
This is who our God is—the God of second chances. And third chances. And fourth chances. There is no limit to his mercy or his love.
This story shows us that God's mercy is not just an abstract theological concept. It's an experience that floods our hearts and changes our minds. As happened with Jonah, so too for us: experiencing God's patient love can move us in ways that we could never move ourselves.
What second chances is God giving you right now? Maybe you've been reluctant to forgive a neighbor or reach out to an estranged family member. Maybe you've felt a tug to share your faith with a co-worker but have always found a way out.
Rather than steeling yourself to take whatever next step God is asking of you, try softening yourself instead. And here is one way you can do it: focus on Jesus and his cross. Imagine him on the cross, and see the love that put him there. Feel the compassion and care flowing from his pierced heart. Let his words "Father, forgive" melt your heart and wash away your guilt and fears (Luke 23:34). Let the cross convince you that God is on your side. Trust that he will help you do whatever you need to do.
Pope Francis once said, "Mercy will always be greater than any sin; no one can place limits on the love of God." So let God give you the second—or third or fiftieth—chance you need. Don't worry; he won't abandon you.
"Father, thank you that you are ever ready to forgive. Give me courage and faith to extend your mercy to someone today."
I will preach magnificence, I will preach the Gospel, I will preach and I will proclaim, I will go out into the big bad world and let the world know the light of God is proclaiming the news from Heaven, "Mercy is here, and all you've to do to obtain it is repent, and receive". Then, the ashes came. We all put on ashes on Ash Wednesday didn't we? We put on a spirit of repentance right? We come to say, "we are sorry and are determined to do better" right? How far has that promise got you?
The story of Jonah is phenomenal. His story is one of tremendous temptation, and suffering and being taken into darkness for 3 days, only to be delivered back to the world to proclaim salvation. This then, it was to show what Jesus the Christ our Lord would do but in a way that has turned the world upside down. From this moment, the moment that God came into the world, from this moment, time started counting. I read from today's 5minutos a quote by Lance Armstrong on his return and having to fight sickness and uphill battles and came back to race and said after winning "If you ever get a second chance in life for something, you've got to go all the way." The second chance that God gives is out of this world. It seems the chance after the last seems even more beautiful. I was forgiven once, and felt the weight off my shoulders, forgiven again for the same, and I began to see a lover, forgiven again, and I realized this is for real, forgiven again after failing again, and realized, "you know what? I can do better", forgiven again and began to fall in love with this Lover called Jesus the Lord our Christ. So if this is an inkling of Heaven, we are in for a phenomenal life that draws us closer and closer to the light, further and further away from darkness.
"A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn." We sang today's Psalm last Sunday "A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me." The day you turn over your heart, your sinful reckless heart to God, that is the day trumpets will blast in Heaven in celebration, and a great feast prepares for you in the Holy Mass. A guy said in our Renew workshop class this weekend "I admire you Adrian, I see you helping alot at the church" and went on. I said "what you see is me giving time, treasure, but I am here with you so that I can give my heart now to God". You see, external acts help, but today, Jesus is asking for much more. Our Lord and Savior says today "there is something greater than Jonah here." Jonah's sign was simply God's word. Jesus IS God's word. So what we have here is greater. God's word through the prophet was "repent or else", and we read in Mathew "the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen."* From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." What will you do when you see the light? Is this the sign? Yes. The light shows the truth. The light shows the way. The light shows the True Life. Once in the light, the grace of God, you will know, you will know what salvation tastes like. The kids don't like medicine, many children of God don't like the truth. The kids don't like a certain food, the children of God don't want to eat what is good for them. The kids little by little see the parents doing over and over what they love. The kids too want to do what the parents love.
Now, where is your love? Will it be the light of God? Will it be Mercy? Because today's entire message hinges on this: God is offering, not an ultimatum, not vengeance, but is offering Mercy. Or else it will come another way. Either you surrender your life now, or turn it in later and how? How will you return your life to God? Because in the end...it is all His. Nothing I own is mine. No one I love is mine. Nothing I do is all me. What then, what God created is a special seed of a soul that will be planted in the ground, your body. Just like Jonah died to the world for 3 days, and Jesus died completely to our earthly life, we too, we will face the dust, the ashes. Jonah went reluctantly, Jesus went obiedently. How will you go? Either way, God's will shall be done. Then, the point is the surrender to joy. Taste it. Surrender to His Way. And the joy of mercy and salvation are phenomenal. Taste Him in the Holy Sacraments. And let the world be delighted in how you smell and want some of that. My daughter comes into my truck smelling like caramel coffee as I take her to school. MMM mmm, I want some of that coffee! And I'm not even a coffee drinker! The same with Christ. Let the world see how peaceful and joyful and in love you are with Christ, so they will want some too! Offer to God what you love the most. He will then offer the best.