As Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. (Luke 11:30) What is this “sign of Jonah”? It is a sign of repentance. God called Jonah to preach to the Ninevites, and when he did, they put on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of their turning away from sin. But Jonah didn’t go to Nineveh right away. He tried to run from God’s call, and it took a storm at sea and three days in the proverbial whale to bring him around. In other words, Jonah himself is a sign of repentance.
We all have a pretty good idea of what it means to repent, but how good are we at actually repenting or confessing our sins? No one likes to admit their faults, let alone say they’re sorry. It seems to go against our nature which is essentially selfish.
In her autobiography, Saint Teresa of Avila wrote: “If a person has Christ Jesus with him as a friend and loving guide, he can put up with anything” (chapter 22). That “anything” includes the humility and honesty needed for repentance. Jesus is a faithful friend. He is always with us, even when we try to turn away from him by sinning. He never abandons us, and he wants to give us the grace to turn back to him. Saint Teresa continued: “What more can we want than to have so loyal a friend at our side?”
It may sound odd at first, but Our Lord is with us even when we are not with him. We tend to think that he blesses us only when we are close to him. But he knows we need his help even more when we have wandered away—and he is more than ready to pour out his grace. This is why we should never be afraid or ashamed to ask him to help us to repent. He is committed to us for life, and he will always answer when we call—even if it is “out of the depths” of sin and disobedience (Psalm 130:1).