You may recall that three years ago we discussed the Ninevites and their love for themselves. We don’t know much about them, the ancient Ninevites and their king. But we do know that, when Jonah came to them as a messenger from God, they listened.
The king of Nineveh listened, and he loved himself for the first time in his life. The king loved himself enough to decide then and there to live in the truth. He threw off the empty pomps of his courtly grandeur and humbled himself before his Maker.
For the first time, the king loved his people. He declared that everyone should heed the words of Jonah. And for the first time ever, the Ninevites truly loved themselves. They turned to God, their Creator and their Father. With confidence in His patient love, they begged His mercy, and they received it.
We may be late, too, in coming to love ourselves. But as long as we draw breath, late is not too late. Today the Lord loves us, and longs for us, and stands ready to forgive any and all sins that we have the courage to acknowledge to Him. And He wills to give us the courage and the insight that we will need to confess.
What is sin #1, of which we are all probably very guilty? Not going to Confession anywhere near enough. Do we love ourselves so little? When the Lord waits in the confessional to forgive, to restore, and to refresh us? And we leave Him waiting?
#2: Do we pray anywhere near enough for the people closest to us–the annoying, tedious people with so many objectionable habits?
The Lord constantly wills that the people we dislike the most will get to heaven. He wills it constantly. The Lord Jesus wills that the greatest villains on earth will get to heaven, by repentance and renewal of soul. Christ stands ready at all times to forgive the sins of the greatest killers and terrorists, once they repent. And He offers the grace of repentance and contrition to all of them, and weeps in His Heart if they are stubborn. Just like He weeps in His Heart when we are stubborn.
Are we anywhere near to seeing other people the way the Lord sees them? With such love and desire for them to love themselves and live in the truth?
Now, before we get discouraged and decide that we are miserable losers without an ounce of real charity in our hearts, let’s remember Jonah. He had no love for the Ninevites. He wanted to see them burn.
But the Lord basically forced Jonah to obey; the Lord more or less forced Jonah to preach repentance to the people he hated. God willed the salvation of that deplorable cesspool of a city. And Jonah was to be His preacher, and convert the Ninevites to true faith. And God saw it done.
So: we do not have to have pure divine love in our hearts. We don’t even have to obey God willingly. We just have to obey Him. Even if we sullenly and grudgingly do what the Lord asks, He will bring good out of it.
Can we doubt that He asks us all to go to Confession during Lent? Even if we go to Confession grudgingly and will sullen obtuseness, like Jonah went to Nineveh grudgingly, with sullen obtuseness–even if we go to the foot of the Cross to confess our sins grudgingly and sullenly, He will forgive us and bring good out of it.