My Dear fellow Christians! In the Bible there is a book which is relatively short (only three pages) but perfectly capturing the theme of God’s forgiveness. It is the story of a man who was swallowed by a whale: Jonah. The man was chosen by God to preach to the people of Nineveh. It horrified him so much that he ran away. Why was he horrified? Imagine yourself walking into an ISIS camp and shouting: “Only forty days more and you will be destroyed.” Now you can understand how Jonah felt. It took “a violent wind on the sea and a whale” to “persuade” him to accept the mission. When it did happen he was walking through the city shouting: “Only forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed.” His first surprise was that he survived that walk. He might have thought: “God’s great. He protected me. Now I need to find a good look-out to observe the destruction of the city.” His second surprise was that the people the people of Nineveh repented and the destruction didn’t happen. “He was indignant at this.” He even blamed God for being “a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness and relenting from evil.”
Where was the mercy of God in the whole situation? It wasn’t in the absence of destruction Jonah preached. But it was in the grace God had given to the people of Nineveh who accepted the message and as the Bible tells us “they believed in God. They proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least.” Probably Jonah thought: “If I had known that the message would have such an impact on the people I should have put ten chewing gums in my mouth to mumble the message so that the people didn’t understand me, didn’t repent and did get destroyed.” Jonah got cranky with God because he thought that God was too easy on the people of Nineveh. However God wasn’t easy on those people at all. On the contrary he was very tough. He called them to conversion. He challenged them while at the same time showing them his mercy by supporting them with his divine grace which they accepted and allowed to work through them. God didn’t destroy the people; he destroyed the evil that controlled the people there.
Let’s go back to the Gospel. I have already mentioned the elder brother now it is the time to look at the younger fellow. When did he experience his father’s mercy? It was when he realised that life of debauchery wasn’t fun at all but it was deadly. In the dictionary we read that debauchery is an excessive indulgence in sex, alcohol or drugs. The conclusion the younger son reached correlates to that of the Church in relation to mortal sin which as the Catechism teaches us: “destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law.” It is important for us to retain the awareness of mortal sins because they put us on the path to death, ultimately eternal death. However it is even more important for us to treasure the belief that God who sent Jonah to turn the people from the deadly path they were travelling will never grow tired of showing people his mercy which leads to change of heart and ultimately change of life style.
What would have happened if the young boy on the way home first had met his big brother and heard what his brother thought about him? He wouldn’t have any courage to keep walking the way of righteousness. How blessed the young man was that he met his father instead. That father from the Gospel is your father too. He is my father. He is the father of all, even those whom we judge unworthy of forgiveness.