There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy
Homily for Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
Preached on February 24, 2010 at Holy Spirit Parish/The Newman Center at the University of Kentucky, Lexington KY
Readings: Jonah 3:1-10; Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19; Luke 11:29-32
If Jonah had his way, the Ninevites would have been sacked without a warning. Jonah just didn’t believe that they deserved a chance. He thought it was futile to walk three days through the city (cf. Jon. 3:3) preaching repentance. He simply didn’t care about the great yet evil city of Nineveh, much less for the hundred and twenty thousand people in it (cf. Jon. 4:11).
But God did, because our God is not a cranky God with an ultimatum. Our God is “a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, rich in clemency, loathe to punish” (Jon. 4:2). Our God is a God who seeks to be reconciled with His people by every means necessary, even if it means taking an unwilling messenger from the belly of a fish and sending him a second time (cf. Jon. 3:1) to deliver His word of warning.
This is what makes God different from us. We have our limits and our limits often fool us into thinking that anyone beyond our patience and our understanding deserves what is coming to them. But God pushes us beyond our limits, beyond our shortsighted ultimatums, and reminds us that we are called to something greater than Jonah could have ever conceived (cf. Lk. 11:32).
If we had our way, there are some people to whom we wouldn’t bother giving second chances. But our God is insistent in giving everyone every possible chance not because anyone deserves it but because there’s a wideness in His mercy and no one—neither His prophet nor us—can ever trim it down.