Wednesday of the 1st Week of Lent–Sackcloth and Ashes

Maybe it was the immediacy of it.  When Jonah went through Nineveh he announced, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.”  When the people heard Jonah’s prophesy they proclaimed a fast and everyone dressed in sackcloth.  Heck, even the king took off his robe, covered himself in sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.  He made the fast official by royal proclamation.  Even the animals were forbidden to eat or drink.  What’s more, every man (and woman?) was to turn away from evil ways and violence.

The king hoped that by these acts of penance they might get God to change His mind, and He did.

Fast forward to Jesus’ time.  Here’s the Son of God preaching repentance and the people want to see signs.  His response is that there will be no sign.  They’ve already received the sign of Jonah.  Of course we know that some of the people believed Jesus but many didn’t.  For some folks, even the appearance of the Son of God wasn’t enough.

Today, 2,000 + years later, the world is in bad shape.  The idea of a king or any other political leader proclaiming that his or her subjects should turn away from sin and violence is laughable.  If anything, most of our political types are in favor of sin.  After all, anything that can be taxed must be good, right?  Here in the United States it would be impossible for the president to declare a time of fasting because that would violate the separation of church and state which is presumed to be in the Constitution, even though the defining document of our government contains no such language.  (But that’s a topic for another day.)

Obviously the folks in Jesus’ day were right in assuming there was no hurry, even though every human being has a limited number of days on this planet.  All these centuries later, the world is still revolving around the sun, though it still refuses to revolve around the Son.

Clearly the solution for you and me is to put on our personal sack cloth, conduct our own private fast, be it from food or something else, and to follow Jesus’ greatest commandment, “Love one another.”  Whether we have 40 days or 40 years or even more time left in this life, time passes very quickly.  Wouldn’t it be a shame if we were called home today and weren’t ready.  After all, we have been warned.

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