Signs of the Times

Luke 11: 29-32
Jon 3: 1-10 / Psa 51

This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except 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 increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.” (Luke 11:29-32)

Reflection

Jesus was saying that the Queen of Sheba had to travel a great distance just to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, but in the case of the Jews of Jesus’ generation, God Himself had to come down to earth, and they did not even care to listen to Him, Whose wisdom was far greater than Solomon’s. The prophet Jonah traversed the great city of Nineveh, preaching repentance, and yet after only a day’s journey, the king of Nineveh and all his subjects repented of their sins without doubting Jonah (Jon.3:4-8). But here was the Son of God Himself preaching to the Jews, and still they could not find it in their hearts to believe Him. They were still unrepentant and hard to teach, asking for signs as proof of Jesus’ divinity.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, said that while the Greeks were more concerned about seeking wisdom, the Jews were always looking for signs and wonders (1Cor.1:22). But what further 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. Thus did our Lord condemn them as “a wicked generation.” He knew the deviousness in their hearts 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 pagans. If Jonah, God’s reluctant prophet, could turn these unbelievers 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). The Jews who had witnessed the wonders performed by Jesus in their midst, had no excuse for their lack of belief and repentance, and so deserved their inevitable destruction.

What about our present generation? Why do you think a highly industrialized pagan country that has been putting its people’s faith in their economic power and wealth are experiencing disasters of apocalyptic proportions? We do not need another sign from heaven to realize how puny and vulnerable we are against the forces of nature, and how much we need to pray for God’s protection. Having experienced similar desolations in the not-so-distant past, perhaps we have really become more prayerful, and are spared of these natural calamities.

Lord, my sacrifice is a broken spirit; a contrite heart You will not despise. (Ps.51:19) Your great pains and death on the cross serve as our inspiration in times of trials, and 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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