‘On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’ (Luke 11:32)
We played so much with words, like ‘post-modernity’, ‘late modernity’. Now new terms offer themselves to describe the changes we recently have been experiencing. Quite rightly, some speak of a ‘pre-Covid 19’ and ‘post-Covid 19’ world.
The Bible is far more concentrated. There are no caesuras, new beginnings. From the Biblical perspective, there is only one, great unfolding continuity. Today’s passage makes it clear: after Jonah, we can speak only of ‘repentant’ and ‘unrepentent’ cultures. Our beginning, because of our being prone to failure, is Niniveh. Niniveh models perfectly our options: repentance or condemnation. There are no excuses for clever self-acquittals, no names in which ‘to hide’ Unless those names, describing an age, help in getting closer to repentance.
If one wants to find an apt name, however, there seems to be a suitable one. Why not call our age as that of ‘post-excitement’? It does have to do with repentance, a lot. For repentance requires the ability of desire. Desire to do something, desire to enjoy something, desire to be with someone, our ‘Other’. Briefly, the desire for the Sacred.
Our age has lost the sense of excitement itself. In the past few decades, as a culture, we over-stimulated ourselves. Like the attendants of late-Roman orgies. There was nothing to be motivated by, nothing to follow, nothing to be awakened by. ‘Johan preached and they repented.’ Ninive still had the desire to live. After that tipping point, the loss of desire for our better selves is proportionate with Judgement. Yet: there is a last resource. A last light that can re-trigger the ‘photosynthesis of our hearts’ by turning to this stimulus. It is not a bate. It is our last chance to listen to. There is a redemptive, healing element in this ultimate rescue (wake-up) signal sent to our over-excited hearts: ‘…and there is something grater than Johan here’
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..