The Sign of Jonah

Luke 11: 29-32
Gal 4: 22-24, 26-27, 31 – 5: 1 / Ps 113: 1-7

This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah.
(Luke 11:29)

Not even Solomon’s wisdom
Comes close to the Word of Jesus;
Just as no power or freedom
Compares to His love that frees us.

As the crowds were increasing, Jesus began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (Luke 11: 29-32)

Reflection

According to St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, while the Greeks were more concerned about seeking wisdom, the Jews were always looking for signs and wonders (1Cor.1:22). But what more proof did they want? Earlier, Jesus had exorcised an evil spirit. But instead of seeing this as God’s handiwork, some of the Jews attributed His power to Beelzebul, the prince of demons. They refused to believe what was happening right before their very eyes. Jesus thus condemned the Jews as “a wicked generation.”

Jesus knew the deviousness in the hearts of His detractors that had made them rotten to the core. They weren’t asking for a sign because they needed proof in order to believe; it was merely their ploy to put him to the test, and find something which they could use to condemn Him. No sign from heaven could ever turn their hearts to repentance.

“Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.” As everyone who is familiar with the story of Jonah knows, he stayed in the belly of a huge fish for three days and three nights before coming out to bear God’s Word of salvation to the Ninevites. Predicting His own death and resurrection, Jesus would likewise be staying in the “belly” of a rocky tomb for three days and three nights before rising to proclaim to all mankind his Good News of salvation. But this was where the similarity ended. The stark contrast lay in the different responses of the “Chosen People” and the Ninevites, a people of Assyria who happened to be unbelievers repugnant to the Jews. If Jonah, God’s reluctant prophet, could turn these pagans to repentance even without a sign from heaven, why couldn’t the miracles performed by Jesus convince His own people? The Queen of Sheba, another pagan who visited King Solomon, acknowledged his wisdom as coming from the One True God (1 Kings 10) and believed just as the residents of Nineveh repented. So what excuse could the Jews have who had witnessed the wonders performed by Jesus in their midst, and yet still met him with resistance instead of belief and repentance?

What about our present generation? What do you think Jesus would say about the way most people in the industrialized countries have been putting their faith in their economic power and wealth? We dread to think what sign will finally convince them that a disastrous reckoning for their recklessness and profligacy awaits them in the not-so-distant future. We do not need a sign from heaven. The signs of impending doom are already at the doorstep with the world-wide economic crisis threatening to become another Great Depression.

Lord Jesus, you have taught us not to look for signs to prove Your love. It is enough that we see Your cross to make us believe and repent of our sins. We are the ones who still have so much to prove to be worthy of Your great sacrifice. Amen.

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