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God of Second Chances
Jonah 31-5, 10 
by JMc

What’s the greatest gift in life? Some might say it’s health. Others would suggest intelligence, or education. Clearly, a strong, supporting family is very important. I have my own opinion; I think the greatest gift in life is getting a second chance. Jonah learned that first hand. When God called Jonah the first time, Jonah ran away. He was supposed to go to the great city of Nineveh and speak God’s word of judgement against it, but Jonah said “No, not this little white duck.” He walked on down to the travel agent and said “I’m interested in a long cruise. What have you got that’s far away from Nineveh?”

“Tarshish is nice this season.” “I’ll take it.” So off he heads in the opposite direction, running from God. Silly duck, you can’t run from God. Where you going to go? The whole world belongs to God. As Joe Louis, the great heavyweight champion once said about an opponent, “He can run, but he can’t hide.” You can’t hide from God. God found Jonah out there on the sea, and sent the worst storm anybody ever saw. It scared the ship’s crew so much that they figured one of their passengers must have angered God something terrible, and when those sailors learned that Jonah was running away from God, they tossed him overboard then and there.

Now, God could have let him drown, but instead along comes a great fish, snaps Jonah up, and after a three day submarine ride, spits him out on the shore--facing Nineveh. God gave Jonah a second chance--a second chance to be prophet to the great city of Nineveh, a second chance to say “yes.” Now, the people of Nineveh were the worst--that’s why Jonah ran away in the first place. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, the fiercest, meanest, baddest country in the world. These Assyrians swooped down out of the north on their iron-wheeled chariots, with their heavy swords and long spears and conquered everything in sight. Israel’s capital of Samaria was just a bump on the road to them, they leveled that proud city in a heartbeat, put its leaders to the sword and moved on. Some of the prophets call the Ninevites an army of locusts, coming out of nowhere and devouring everything in their path. Only God’s angel prevented them from taking the holy city of Jerusalem.

Archaeologists say they used to pile up their enemies’ bones outside the gates of Nineveh, just to let you know, as you entered the city, how bad they were. There wasn’t a crime they weren’t guilty of, an atrocity they didn’t revel in. Fire and brimstone was too good for these folks. They deserved whatever wrath God reserves for the worst of the worst. Instead, God gives them a second chance. The God of Israel, the God whose cities they burned, whose people they ravaged, this God sends

Jonah, now willing to preach, to give them one more chance to repent. “Forty days more and the city will be destroyed!” And they repent. Jonah’s words convince all, from least to greatest, to put things right with God. Everybody covers themselves with sackcloth, repents, and God forgives them, decides that the city will not be destroyed after all. God gives the terrible city of Nineveh a second chance.

How about you? Do you need a second chance from God? Is there something in your life, in your past, in your present situation, in your family, that has you in a quicksand of guilt and shame. Have you not done as much for God as you think you should, and wonder if God could ever have a plan for your life? Do you have a family member, or a friend, whose been away from church for a while, or away from the sacraments, and figures they can’t come back; that God won’t give them a second chance, or a third chance, or a fourth chance? Well, our God is a God who loves to give second chances.

Every time the Chosen People turned away from God, the bible tells how God gave them another chance to be faithful. King David sinned more than once in God’s sight, and God always loved him enough to give him another chance. Those fearless disciples of today’s gospel run away in terror from the cross, but, after his resurrection, Jesus gave them a second chance to be courageous.

Our God loves to give second chances, so, don’t let guilt keep you away from confession and repentance; don’t let your past prevent you from doing something great for God now. Our God is a God of second chances--ask Jonah, ask the people of Nineveh--better yet, go to God and find out for yourself. Amen.