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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Jonah 3, 1-10

The word of Yahweh was addressed to Jonah a second time.

'Up!' he said, 'Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to it as I shall tell you.'

Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of Yahweh. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare; to cross it took three days.

Jonah began by going a day's journey into the city and then proclaimed, 'Only forty days more and Nineveh will be overthrown.'

And the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth and sat down in ashes.

He then had it proclaimed throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his nobles, as follows: 'No person or animal, herd or flock, may eat anything; they may not graze, they may not drink any water.

All must put on sackcloth and call on God with all their might; and let everyone renounce his evil ways and violent behaviour.

Who knows? Perhaps God will change his mind and relent and renounce his burning wrath, so that we shall not perish.'

God saw their efforts to renounce their evil ways. And God relented about the disaster which he had threatened to bring on them, and did not bring it.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

God seeks Jonah to entrust to him an important mission: to proclaim the Word of God in the great city of Nineveh. Already once God had called him to do this, as described in the beginning of the Book, but Jonah had escaped. Nineveh scared him. And this is understandable: in the imagination of Israel, Nineveh was its greatest enemy, the capital of the great Assyrian empire responsible for wars that aimed to destroy the kingdom of Israel. Couldn’t God have entrusted a simpler mission to Jonah? But the Lord is patient. Worried by the situation in that city, God turns to Jonah again in the hope that he will listen. The text highlights the greatness of the city. We think of the great modern cities, the mega-cities of our times. They really are scary. How to confront their problems, how to oppose the evil and violence? It is easy to escape, to wash our hands of something and escape into our own little gates, into the care of ourselves and our own little corners. This is the temptation that Jonah also felt. But after God’s insistence—we think how many times the Lord continues to speak to us!—Jonah listens and gets going. The proclamation of Jonah is clear, even if terrible: “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Preaching is always aimed at making grow the awareness that if evil grows and develops, it will destroy the people and the city. Jonah had only gone through a third of the city, a day of walking, because it took three to cross the city, and then the people of Nineveh “believed God; they proclaimed a fast.” When the Word of God reached him, even the king ordered that the city have a gesture of repentance. The king and the entire people hoped that “God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.” Yes, fasting and prayer changed the heart of God, who turned his fierce anger and saved the city and its inhabitants from destruction. Prayer bends the heart of God, it induces it to mercy and forgiveness. God always forgives if men and women turn to him. Jonah shows that we need to always hope in the strength of the Word of God: every time that it is proclaimed it carries out a miracle of change. No one, not even the worst enemy, is condemned to remain himself. The word of God can really carry out the miracle of conversion, the victory of good over evil always and everywhere.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets