“What do you mean, sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish.” (Jonah 1:6)
In the name of the father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen!
Have we ever wanted to run away from something, someone or life? Do we remember moments where we avoided God’s clear call to us; and we decided to do nothing about it or do the opposite? Have we ever been in a position where we wanted to say something to someone and yet, we couldn’t? Or have we ignored telling someone what God wanted you to say--the truth?
Nowadays we are surrounded by a lot of skepticism. Some people, forgetting God being omnipotent, have doubts about stories in the bible and saints, like that of Jonah. Those people usually say, How Could God? How Could Jonah stay in the belly of the whale?
There is a beautiful story of a teacher and a little girl regarding this… one day …
“The teacher told his elementary students, “I don’t want any of you to ever be afraid of going into the sea because there are no sea creatures that can swallow you whole”.
A little girl raised her hand and said, “I learned in church that a great fish swallowed Jonah whole”.
The teacher scoffed at that and said, “that’s impossible that could never happen”.
The little girl said, “When I get to heaven I’ll ask Jonah myself and find out if it was true”.
The teacher replied, “What if Jonah didn’t go to heaven?” The little girl said, “I know he did! but “if he didn’t, then you can ask him”
Two weeks before Great Lent we have Jonah's Fast, also known as Nineveh's Fast. It is a short fast, only three days, and a fast of repentance. During this fast, we remember the three days Prophet Jonah spent in the belly of a large fish as penance for his disobedience to God and the atonement of the sinful city of Nineveh. This fast teaches us how a sinner can inherit the kingdom of God through repentance and realize God’s love and concern for all people.
The fast of Nineveh is a 3 day lent recognized by the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, which lasts from Monday to Wednesday, 2 weeks before the beginning of the Great Lent. This year’s Fast of Nineveh begins on Monday, February 10 and ends February 12.
As with all other fasts of the Holy Church, the fast of Nineveh is observed by refraining from the intake of all dairy and meat products.
Sometimes … God has limits where He says enough is enough. He had enough of their rebelliousness. He sends His messenger, Jonah, as He sends us His message in many ways, to bring them [to bring us] to the light i.e Himself. However, Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” Jonah made a conscious decision to run and not to listen to the call of God. He ran away from [his] responsibility. What about us!? Are we running to or away from God? How many of us are still obeying God’s call? Or are we only heeding His call when it matches our desire?
During these three days, we should look at our lives and show remorse for our disobedient natures and follow in the footsteps of Prophet Jonah and the people of Nineveh. This fast is about getting rid of our bad habits, just like the mariners threw most of their cargo that was in the ship into the sea, to lighten the load and to make the ship sail safely. This fast is about to cast off our worldly desires and cultivating virtues. Just as the captain awakened Jonah from his sleep, let us also awaken ourselves from spiritual sleep and call upon God during this three-day Fast.
During this fast, we live with Jonah, his fasting and repentance in the whale's belly. We also live with the Ninevites, their fasting and repentance. Just as the fasting accompanied by repentance saved Jonah and the Ninevites from perdition, also our fasting accompanied by repentance will save us from eternal destruction and death due to sin.
Steps we could take to return to God...
- Desire from within
- >Try to clear out your heart from evil desires; then your thoughts will consequently be purified
- >a person who has left sin for the sake of God's commandments and not because s/he hates sin. He should progress in repentance until sin is removed from the heart.
- >Make sure you're seeking to obey what God has already revealed in the scripture. Have a desire to honor God in every way. It doesn’t work to ignore God’s revealed instruction and yet expect Him to make everything possible for you.
- Avoid opportunity
- >Keep away from all things that bring to your mind a sinful thought. Such thoughts may come as a result of faulty readings, of wicked things that are heard, or due to a sinful environment, bad company, or wicked friendship.
- Self-control/restraining yourself
- >Learn to say NO to sin- you have a choice.
- >The impulsivity can result from not leaning on Christ, FLEE from sin
- Have a support system
- >Visible- talk to your priests, spiritual brothers, sisters
- >Invisible- ask the intercession and guidance of St. Mary, Angels, and Saints
Glory be to God!
Source: Dn Medhanie Haile