BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo


HOMILY: * Jonah 3 : 1 – 10, Lk 11 : 29 – 32.

Prophets are always sent by God to a people or individual before a major event be it positive or destructive. ‘Repentance’, says John Milton, ‘is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity’. It is the secret charm that melts the heart of Divine fury. It is true that man is by nature sinful but it is also true that he is by nature repentant. It is in our nature to desire God and as St Augustine put it, ‘You have made us for yourselves O God and our hearts are restless until they find rest in thee’. In today’s 1st reading we are told that the Ninevites heard the Word of God from Jonah and they believed God and went into fasting from the highest to the lowest person. When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, He repented of the evil he said he will do to them ( This is a most anthropomorphic way of describing the incident).

Nigeria looks so much like the biblical Nineveh, real or imaginary – a great city so blessed with riches and potentials but neck deep in corruption ; A nation whose resources are ruthlessly plundered by its few leaders in broad daylight while poverty stares its majority at the face ; A nation where any anti corruption crusade is sabotaged by the cold hands of senseless opposition and truth is slaughtered at the altar of partisan politics. Nigeria could so much be likened to Nineveh. But the only contrast lies in our response to the Word of God for repentance. The Ninevites responded spontaneously to the call for repentance. The man of God, Jonah, was not all that a polished preacher. His homilitic style was merely declarative : ‘Only 40 days and Nineveh will be destroyed’. But here in Nigeria, we have various kinds of preachers ; some exhortational in style, some didactic and expository, others reflective and more analytic, etc. But what is the response we see? More corruption!

Our generation is actually an evil generation even beyond what Jesus accused his own generation ; full of atrocities inspite of the knowledge of Christ who is greater than Jonah ; hearing richer homilies better than the merely declarative one sentence homily of Jonah ; Jonah did not work any miracles but Christ did so many and even rose from the dead ; As Jonah was thrown into the sea to save the endangered seamen, Christ was sacrificed on the Cross to save the endangered sinners ; As Jonah stayed inside the belly of a fish for 3 days and came out so did Christ stay inside the tomb for 3 days and came out alive. The resurrection of Christ was the final sign for the repentance of sinners.

As we find in today’s gospel, Jesus may likely call us ‘A wicked generation’ compared to the Ninevite generation. It is a great tragedy in life when people with lesser opportunities perform better, while those with abundant blessings get ruined. As Jonah was a sign of repentance for the Ninevites even without much miracles and homilitical finese, Jesus performed miracles and taught us about the kingdom with all profundity and clarity of thought. As Jonah stayed 3 days in the belly of a fish as a sign of resurrection for the Ninevites, Jesus stayed 3 days in the grave and rose again to save us from sin. As the Queen of Sheba sought the wisdom of Solomon all the way from Ethiopia to Jerusalem, this generation will be condemned for rejecting the wisdom of Jesus well espoused daily in all our churches.

Look at what is happening in Nigeria now ; a blessed country as ours with very learned people settling down to be ruled by the ignorant. Nigeria is gradually settling down for corruption in leadership, physical exchange of blows in our red and green Chambers, election malpractice ( in the last election in one state, a Governor was said to have made himself a Senator by forcing the electoral office at gunpoint to sign the fake results), bribery and corruption in broad daylight.

Cultism is becoming less secret as the prosperity of richmen in secret cults are celebrated even in our Churches. Government sponsored terrorism have become the order of the day. We cannot afford to arrogantly settle down for hell fire . Don’t even settle down for purgatory! A Chinese proverb says that ‘It is better to aim at the sky and hit the bird than to aim at the bird and hit the rock’. Examine yourself critically during this Lenten season to know whether there is something you really need to repent of because SOMETHING GREATER THAN JONAH is here!

May God bless you today!

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