In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit-One God, Amen.
The Fast of Nineveh | Tsome Nenewie
Two weeks prior to 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.
Have you ever wanted to run away from something, someone or life? Do you remember moments where you avoided God’s clear call to you; and you decided to do nothing about it or did the opposite? Have you ever been in a position where you wanted to say something to someone and yet, you couldn’t? Or have you ignored telling someone what God wanted you to tell/truth/?
Brothers and sisters, such was the story of God’s Prophet, Jonah. One time God called Jonah and said: “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me" (Jonah 1:2). God has limits where He says enough is enough; He had enough of their rebellion. He sends His messenger, Jonah just God sends us many messages through many ways, to bring them to the light (Light being Him, God). However, instead of obeying God’s command, Jonah attempted to flee from Tarshish, to flee from the presence of God. 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 towards God 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?
We have heard Jonah’s story again and again every year yet we still continue the same “spiritual life” from the year before without confession, Holy communion or growing spiritually. We are always concerned justly about those who have run from the church visibly; but what about us who live in the church. One need to know that a person not acting on what he knows to be true is just as disobedient as the person who chooses to run away from God’s presence. Both have disobeyed God’s command irrespective of their physical presence. The Holy Liturgy reminds “ Hallelujah if there be any one of the faithful that has entered the church ... has not heard the Holy Scriptures and has not waited until they finish the prayer of the Mass...has not received the Holy Communion, let him be driven out of the church, for he has violated the law of God, and disdained to stand before the heavenly King”.
Jonah went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish and he bought a ticket; Here we see Jonah making a deliberate and calculated decision. We are reminded of a beautiful story about a young son who took his inheritance and decided to go away from his Father, home and brothers to a distant country to live/chase/ his dream to live up with drink, party, song and drug. How many of our brothers/ sisters today are doing the same thing simply for the sake of satisfaction or/and having experience.
One thing is certain brothers and sisters, Satan will always find a way to provide us a transportation for those who run away from God. When we run from God, we will always find a ship. The devil will make sure that the sailing is on time too. The path away from God is always fast and downhill. When you go away from God, you never get the place where you wanted to go and yet you pay the fare with your emotional, body and soul. On the contrary, When you run towards God, you reach the place fast and He pays the price with His Grace and Mercy just has He done for us on the cross.
To make the story short, when Jonah boarded the ship, the LORD sent out a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was about to break. When you run away from God, He will catch up with you and make your life become very stormy so as to turn you towards an eternal life/Him. No one can hide from God. The Psalmist reminds us “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7-10).
We are so precious to God that He will never let us go without fighting, be it in storm, sickness, or discontent, so as to bring us to Him. One important thing we shouldn’t miss here is that when Jonah ran away and boarded the ship, the people on the ship had also suffered.. When we make a bad choice and want to live that life with dedication, others [family, friends and society] around us also face hardship as well. [Ask some of our Fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters who has lost their kids and brethren to drugs and prison].
In summary, all of us have tried at sometime or another - some in big ways and some in small ways- to get away from God’s will. However, even if we consciously leave our God and His church like the prodigal son and Jonah, to chase our dream and satisfaction, Our Heavenly Father is always ahead of us, longing for and anticipating our return. Let us return to God, bretheren!!!
O! Lord, I acknowledge how far You went to bring me to life. I remember Your Mercy when my running away turned to nightmare! You were always there to comfort and guide me. It always gives me a comfort knowing that when I thought I left you behind, you are always there ahead of me welcoming me to YOUR HOME.
O, Lord!, Help me, to do your will. Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love.
O, Virgin Mary! Mother of God, remind Him of mercy and not destruction. Remind Him of compassion and not anger.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.
May the prayer of Our Holy Mother be with all of us.
Dn Medhanie Kifle