sexta-feira, 16 de setembro de 2016


When God saw what they did
and how they turned from their evil ways,
he relented and did not bring on them
the destruction he had threatened.
Jonah 3:10 (read 3:1-10) - NIV

At dawn on April 15, 1912 the HMS Titanic was sailing full steam ahead in its maiden voyage from London to New York. Despite the warnings of the danger of icebergs ahead, it did not reduce its speed or changed its course. The resultant collision was known as one of the worst maritime disasters in history! The even greater tragedy was that it was preventable but was not avoided.

The biblical text tells a similar story, but with opposite outcome. The city of Nineveh was heading for disaster because of its wicked life. The prophet Jonah appeared and began announcing the imminent disaster. The people "listened", changed their lifestyle and the inevitable was avoided.

In the book, “DO ICEBERG À ARCA DE NOÉ” (From the Iceberg to Noah's Ark), Leonardo Boff has a similar approach. He contrasts the Titanic to Noah's Ark. The Titanic represents our "civilization" that speeds full steam ahead on route to a collision with the ecological system that sustains us. Noah's Ark, by contrast, represents a means of salvation and a new chance for humanity

I'm borrowing the figure of the Titanic to make a comparison with the city of Nineveh. Salvation requires a change of route. Destinations can be changed. Disasters and tragedies can be avoided. We ourselves are responsible for many of the ills that plague our lives, but we insist in the futility of “finger pointing” by blaming others for what is happening in the world today. We are good – they are bad.

We are accustomed to think of religion in individual terms as the salvation of our soul. Our individualism ignores the larger dimension of redemption. With the globalization of the economy and advanced technology we are more and more connected to the general fate of society. Its fate is increasingly tied to our fate. No one can be saved alone. We cannot save only ourselves and ignore the fate of others.

Salvation must include the whole world. For the first time in the history of life on our planet has a single species (homo sapiens) gained the ability to throw the whole ecological system off balance. Instead of cultivating and grooming our only home, we are mindlessly destroying it. With the overpopulation of the world, the human being is becoming increasingly predatory. Instead of living in harmony with nature we are living at its expense. Boff writes "every day ten species of living beings disappear definitively because of irresponsible human action" (p. 67). The diversity of life is diminishing and the planet is slowly dying. the murderer being humanity. Boff also warns us: "This time there is no Noah's Ark to keep some of us from perishing. We can survive only together" (p. 92).

Nineveh provides us with a hopeful model. The city was doomed. A prophet appeared and pointed to disaster ahead. The population took the warning seriously, and everyone, from the greatest to the least, changed their ways and the city was spared.

Our hope is to follow the path of radical change. Prophets abound. It depends on us ignore the deniers and to listen to prophets and act urgently! Titanic? Nineveh? It´s up to us!!!


Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

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