"They proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth." —Jonah 3:5
When the Ninevites repented, they expressed their repentance by fasting, covering themselves with sackcloth, and sitting in ashes (Jon 3:5-6). They indicated "by their actions how they turned from their evil way" (Jon 3:10).
We human beings must express ourselves in sensory ways, that is, we are sacramental. That's why it's important to go to Confession to a priest — a person you can see, hear, and touch. However, we human beings are not just a little sacramental; we are very sacramental. We must express ourselves in many sensory ways. In addition to Confession, we need fasting. In addition to fasting, we need sackcloth and ashes, or something like them. We need more than ashes on Ash Wednesday. A little dab of ashes won't do us.
How do we express our repentance? This is a critical question. Because of the way we are, if we don't express repentance, we may not be repentant. May this Lent be a re-discovery of penitential practices and our deepest selves.
Prayer: Father, I repent down to the bone. "My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, You will not spurn" (Ps 51:19).
Promise: "For at the preaching of Jonah they reformed, but you have a greater than Jonah here." —Lk 11:32
Praise: Joe, a clerk at a local store, wore his ashes on Ash Wednesday for all his customers to see that Jesus was his Lord.
Reference: (For a related teaching, order our leaflet The Secret of Confession or our tape on audio AV 44-3 or video V-44.)
Rescript: †Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Auxiliary Bishop, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, July 29, 2011
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