Nineveh

9 October 2007. Tuesday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
Jonah 3, 1-10; Psalm 130; Luke 10, 38-42

Nineveh was a very important city of ancient Assyria situated at the eastern bank the Tigris River. The Book of Jonah in the first reading called it an ‘exceedingly large city’ that could be traversed for three days probably in circuit. Sennacherib made Nineveh a great city (700 BC). He built streets and palaces with at least 80 rooms lined with sculpture, and the library of Asshurbanipal containing clay tablets. These has been unearthed by archaeology. Nineveh became rich because it became a melting pot of commercial routes crossing the Tigris, and it connected the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. The sin of the inhabitants of Nineveh was pride. When Nineveh was attacked by the Medes and the Babylonians in 612 BC, the sudden fall was imputed on Nineveh’s pride.

Paul Ricouer said that a fault or a sin becomes unforgivable when it is not forgotten; when it is always remembered. A mistake or a blunder becomes unforgivable when we keep a record of wrongdoings. The pride of Nineveh is recorded in the books of Kings and Chronicles; its tragic fall is mentioned in the book of Nahum and Zephaniah and further recalled by the Gospel of Matthew (12, 41) and Luke (11, 32). The Clint Eastwood movie, Unforgiven (1992), affirms this notion: William Munny who tried to reform because of his wife is the ‘unforgiven’ because people still remember how he killed people in the past. William Munny was now old and despite his change, his fault was never forgotten.

The faults that we have committed often paralyzes us that we are unable to change. The paralysis is either attributed to others who impute it on us or to ourselves when we are plagued by guilt. A large part of this paralysis is an invitation first to look into the depths of our sins; to come and see the horror of our sins. The palmist today explores the seriousness of our sinful acts, “If you, O Lord, mark inequities, who can stand?”

The proposal of the Gospel becomes important by inviting people to eat; eventually to forgive. Jacques Derrida said, “Forgiveness is directed to the unforgivable or it does not exist. It is unconditional; it is without exception and without restriction. It does not presuppose a request for forgiveness: one cannot or should not forgive; there is no forgiveness, if there is any, except where there is the unforgivable.”

Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians says this about love: “Love does not keep a record of wrongdoings.” But love does not wallow in the past, especially when one is defeated. Love, especially as we follow our conscience, moves us towards God.

In other words, we can know the depths and seriousness of our sins by doing what Mary did: listen to Jesus. Or, we may look at our experiences when our faith was tested. The people from Nineveh also repented. So, God did not continue what He planned to do.

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