Wednesday of the First Week in Lent
Jonah was a reluctant prophet. The task at hand was immense: a call to conversion in a city that it took three days to cross (perhaps a bit like Los Angeles!). But the call to conversion was heard, the people repented, and Nineveh was spared the destruction that the justice of God had planned for it.
We too live in a massive urban civilization – one which is now virtually global. The urban landscape is so pervasive, so surrounded by walls of technology that even the most remote places are as parks in a city. Cities have a bad reputation in the Bible, beginning with Babel, through Babylon and Rome. Yet there is one city that has hope, and that is Jerusalem. And we, disciples of Jesus, are spiritual heirs of that beloved city which yet itself was razed: we seek a Jerusalem on high, the New Jerusalem, promised us by God.
In the meantime, we live in the earthly City, and must try, by our suffering, prayer and fasting to stay the righteous wrath of God from the wickedness to which cities – impersonal places, without the accountability of the village – are prone. More: we are to be signs of hope that fasting from the sinful excesses and perversions of fallen humanity we can ourselves live and guide others into the peace of God, that “peace that passeth all understanding.” To do this we must be very quiet, and lead hidden and hopeful lives, right in the belly of the beast sometimes emerging to give a prophetic word. And sometimes it will work.