Monday of the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

So Jesus today speaks of the “sign of Jonah.”  I think this sign could mean a couple of different things.  First, it is a direct parallel to the life of Jesus.  Just as Jonah spent three days as good as dead in the belly of the big fish before being disgorged to a new life in Ninevah, so Jesus would spend three days dead in the tomb before being resurrected to new life.

But second, this could refer to the effects of the sign of Jonah.  The Ninevites were evil people who had no idea that they should repent.  But Jonah – unwillingly of course – preached to them. And they didn’t require from him miracles and wonders. They heard his word – the word of the LORD – and reformed their ways, they straightened up their act. That’s what Jesus is extolling here. It didn’t take anything but hearing the word of the Lord for those evil Ninevites to turn to God for mercy. But the Israelites, who had in Jesus a much better sign than that of Jonah still demanded a whole side show to test his words.

What about us? What does it take for us to make a change in our lives? Has God been trying to get through to us, but we keep holding out for some kind of sign? Shame on us when we do that – and most of us do at some point. We, like the Israelites, have a wonderful sign in Jesus, and we would do well to take up our own crosses and do what the Lord asks of us.

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?

So 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, well, chances are they wouldn’t believe.

So I think it’s okay for us on occasion to ask for a sign. We can ask God to help us to know we have discerned the right path, or are at least headed in the right direction. But we must always ask from the perspective of our life of 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.