Just thought I’d expand on one of my sentences from that last posting:  “During Lent we acknowledge and grieve for past failings. ”

purple bar

It can be said that in some way, small or large, we contribute to the moral fiber of the nation we live in, so our private good or bad moral behavior is of social consequence.   Lent is good for the soul;  Lent is good for the nation.

So let’s look at what kind of “failings”  a nation can have:   Violence.  Hatred.   War.    Sexual immorality.    Injustice.    Lawless Leaders      We can all name even more.    Sound like a nation you know?    Now multiply the intensity of all that by a hundredfold –  and you have the ancient people of Assyria, at a certain time of their history.

I knew this from my university studies,  but one time, more recently, one of my classes was studying the book of Jonah,  so I needed to do some more research on just why Jonah was sent up to Assyria.


What I learned still sickens me.    Don’t even use your imagination.   Once those images are put into your mind,  it’s hard to live with them.

The Assyrians made many recordings of their atrocities, the better to intimidate their enemies.

Assyr horses

A good question for us today during Lent is  why can people hurt each other?  Why does such evil exist?   Or, as we ask today:   If God is good, why does He permit evil in the world?      The horrifying evil committed by the Assyrians was spreading throughout the region.   It was increasing, not lessening.  Whole populations were being mercilessly wiped out – the only way to be “safe” was to become part of the Assyrian war machine –  and participate in the evil.

Couldn’t a Good God put a stop to this?    Yes, that was the plan.   But He didn’t carry it out just then.    The Reading given to us on this particular Monday in Lent tells us that God gave them “a chance.”    “To know, to acknowledge, and to grieve”  for their past “failings,”  just as we must do during Lent.

as prophet jonah

So he picked a guy, one from among His Chosen People.   His name was Jonah but forget the “whale”  – it wasn’t a whale and that was only a minor incident showing that God wins – you can’t run away.

as ninevah

Jonah was sent right into the “heart of the monster,”  to Nineveh,  the beautiful capital city of Assyria.  It was so large that we’re told it would take three days just to walk across it from one end to the other.     And Jonah preached to them….dumb as it sounds,  he really did say the words, right out in public,  that God wanted the Assyrians to hear.    “This is how awful you are,  this is what I will do, unless you repent and show your sorrow.”

as sackclothAmazingly, they did.   Sackcloth and ashes.  And they received another 40 years of strength and prosperity, much less violent and evil now –   40 years,  until their children grew up and became forgetful and ungrateful and fell back into the former ways of their parents, and God did away with Assyria.  For the next  2800 years,  this is what Nineveh looks like  –

as ninevah now

But this isn’t a history lesson about Nineveh.  It’s a story for Lent and how it works.  In the little time we have left of this year’s Lent,  we can remember:  evil does exist, and sometimes we’re responsible for a little part of it.   God really does hate for us to do bad things, but He offers us a chance, first.    It’s called our Lifetime.    A chance to think,  acknowledge,  be sorrowful,  repent and do penance.

God is good.

Deo gratias.



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