Monday of the Twenty-seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Have you ever been sure of the Lord’s call in your life and it just terrified you?  I have.  And for those of us who have been in this position, we can perhaps understand Jonah’s reaction in today’s first reading.  He had been called by the Lord to preach to the people in Nineveh.  And let’s be clear about this: the people of Nineveh were unspeakably evil and had long been persecuting the people of Israel.  And so for Jonah, this call was a bit like being called to preach to the people of ISIS or something like that.  Not only did Jonah fear for his life in going to them, but, quite frankly, he also could not possibly care less if they repented and God had mercy on them.

But it’s a little hard to run away from God.  He always catches up with you sooner or later.  If that weren’t true, I wouldn’t be standing here today, I can tell you that!  It would certainly be easier for us Jonahs if we would just give in to God’s will at the beginning and not have to do all this running.  But sometimes the human heart just isn’t ready for radical change.

That was true of the scholar of the law in today’s Gospel reading.  I think his question is more about testing Jesus than really wanting to be converted, but even so, he can’t help but get caught up in Jesus’ teaching.  The question is, is he ready to “go and do likewise?”  The reading ends before he can make that decision, but the implication is that it will be very hard for him to really love his neighbor in the same way that the good Samaritan loved the robbery victim.

And so those of us who look a lot like Jonah or the scholar of the law today, need to pray for softening of our hardened hearts.  Will it take three days in the belly of a big fish for us to finally give in to God’s will?  Or can we just give in and trust?

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

I think it’s a pretty common experience for people to look for a sign from God. So many comedies have that premise somewhere in the story line. Don’t we all look for signs from God to make sure we’re doing the right thing?

Well, yes, signs are necessary and helpful events in our spiritual journey.  And Jesus was never stingy about giving signs.  After all, he healed the sick, raised the dead, and fed the multitudes.  Who could have possibly missed the signs and wonders he was providing?  The thing was, the people, especially the religious authorities, were cynical and hard of heart, and they soon forgot the wonders he had done.  So they wanted to see Jesus do things they were pretty sure he couldn’t do; in other words, they were asking for a sign not from an attitude of faith, but an attitude of cynicism.

And Jesus had no intention of playing that game.  These people would get no further sign, at least not until the sign of Jonah.  So what did that mean?  Well, as we remember, Jonah was swallowed up in the belly of a big fish for three days, then disgorged on the shores of Nineveh.  Jesus was foreshadowing that, in the same way, he himself would be swallowed up in the grave for three days, then raised to new life.  These cynical people would just have to wait for that great sign, and even then, they certainly wouldn’t believe.

And so, yes, we can ask for a sign.  We can ask God to help us to know we have discerned the right path.  But we always must ask from the perspective of our faith, being open to whatever God shows us, being open to silence if that’s what he gives us, ready to follow him, sign or no sign, wherever we are led.  God is always there, even in our most difficult quandaries, ready to give us confidence by his presence.

And never forget that we have already received the sign of Jonah, and that sign is incredibly good news for all of us!

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

We just finished hearing about the challenges and ministry of Jonah this past week.  Jonah, called to preach repentance to the Ninevites, finds that he would rather not, and so attempts to get away from God.  That, of course, doesn’t work because there is no where that God is not, so he ends up in the belly of a big fish for three days and nights, and is eventually disgorged in Nineveh to do the work he was called to do.  This he does, begrudgingly, and the people of Nineveh repent, to the praise and glory of God.

And today we hear that no sign will be given to the people of Jesus’ time except this sign of Jonah.  And that is true.  Jesus is called to preach repentance just like Jonah was, although, praise God, he does it willingly.  Jesus too will be covered over for three days and three nights, but this time in the tomb and not a fish.  He then is disgorged in the glory of the Resurrection to give the way to repentance, which some have done, to the praise and glory of God.  This is the only sign we need.

But Jesus berates the people because while the evil people of Nineveh repented, the Jews of Jesus’ day not so much.  The people of Nineveh didn’t have anything near as  great a prophet as Jesus is, and they repented, but the people of Jesus’ time did not.  And so history and eternity will be kinder to the Ninevites than to these people.

The Psalmist today sings that the Lord has made known his salvation.  This he has done, to the Ninevites, to the people of Jesus’ time, and to us.  Today we pray for the softening of our hearts so that we might repent of our wickedness in the way that the Ninevites did, and so have eternal life.

Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

So, what’s the big deal about seeking a sign?  Don’t we all need a sign from God every now and then so that we can be sure we are on the right path?  Otherwise, how are we supposed to know the will of God?

Well, yes, signs are necessary and helpful events in our spiritual journey.  And Jesus was never stingy about giving signs.  After all, he healed the sick, raised the dead, and fed the multitudes.  Who could have possibly missed the signs and wonders he was providing?  The thing was, the people, especially the religious authorities, were cynical and hard of heart, and they soon forgot the wonders he had done.  So they wanted to see Jesus do things they were pretty sure he couldn’t do; in other words, they were asking for a sign not from an attitude of faith, but an attitude of cynicism.

And Jesus had no intention of playing that game.  These people would get no further sign, at least not until the sign of Jonah.  So what did that mean?  Well, as we remember, Jonah was swallowed up in the belly of a big fish for three days, then disgorged on the shores of Nineveh.  Jesus was foreshadowing that, in the same way, he himself would be swallowed up in the grave for three days, then raised to new life.  These cynical people would just have to wait for that great sign, and even then, they certainly wouldn’t believe.

And so, yes, we can ask for a sign.  We can ask God to help us to know we have discerned the right path.  But we always must ask from the perspective of our faith, being open to whatever God shows us, being open to silence if that’s what he gives us, ready to follow him, sign or no sign, wherever we are led.  God is always there, even in our most difficult quandaries, ready to give us confidence by his presence.

And never forget that we have already received the sign of Jonah, and that sign is incredibly good news for all of us!