Monday of the Twenty-eighth week in Ordinary Time
Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites
Aphrahat (?-c.345), monk and Bishop near Mosul
Demonstration 3, Concerning fasting (SC 349)
"Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites: so will the Son of Man be to this generation."
The children of Nineveh fasted with a pure fast when Jonah preached repentance to them. For thus it is written: “When they heard the preaching of Jonah they proclaimed a solemn fast and constant supplication, sitting on sackcloth and ashes. They took off their fine clothing and put on sackcloth instead. Infants were denied their mothers’ breasts; pasture, to beasts both small and great,” (cf Jon 3)…
And now here is what is written: “God saw their actions, how they turned from their evil way. Then he turned from them his anger and did not destroy them.” It does not say: “He saw their abstinence from bread and water, with sackcloth and ashes,” but: “how they turned from their evil way and from the wickedness of their works”… This indeed was a pure fast and it was accepted: the fast that the Ninevites fasted when they turned away from their evil ways and the greediness of their hands…
Because, my friend, when you fast, the best fast is always to abstain from wickedness. It is better than abstaining from bread and water, better than… “bowing the head like a reed and lying in sackcloth and ashes,” as Isaiah says (58,5). When, indeed, a man abstains from bread, water or whatever food it may be, if he covers himself with sackcloth and ashes and afflicts himself, he is loved, he is fine and acceptable. But that which is most acceptable is that he humbles himself, that he “releases the chains” of impiety and unties the bonds of deception. Then “his light breaks forth like the dawn and his vindication goes before him. He is like a watered garden; like a spring whose water never fails,” (Is 58, 8ff).