Scripture: Lectionary # 227: Jonah 3:1-10. Psalm 51:3-4.12-13.18-19. Luke
In Jesus we have someone very special. "You have a greater than Jonah
here!". Jesus tells us this today and then refers to the creative tale of
Jonah the Prophet. His name means dove in Hebrew. We know that his story
is fantasy like and that this prophet is a pouter. He is upset when the
Ninevites listen to his call to repent and do so from the King to the
beasts of burden. It is the greatest fish story in the Bible and has
charmed many a discussion. Some even get belligerent about it by saying it
is absolutely historical. But we are past that type of arguing and are
more interested in the inspired message of the little novel itself. Jesus
also brings in Solomon to add to what he is saying to the people, the crowd
today. We are eavesdropping on the teaching Jesus has for the crowd in
order to apply it on this Lenten Wednesday to ourselves. There is an
important message in all of the readings that we have in Lent and this one
is no exception.
We are being called to discern the signs of the times. That holds for
every generation but especially for those who have heard of this expression
in the Vatican II documents and in our need to couple this reading of the
signs with Sacred Scripture and sound holy Traditions that are not museum
pieces or pious exaggerations. By reading the signs of the times we learn
how to see what our culture bring us that is good and what is not good. We
need wisdom, prudence, and understanding to discern signs. Unlike a
pitcher we cannot shake off the sign once we read it correctly. We too are
part of the crowd listening to Jesus and we need to repent in those areas
where we have succumbed more to our cultural surroundings than to what
would be good for our spiritual life.
One of the earliest persons to use this expression was St. Ignatius of
Antioch (110 A.D.) Some of the New Testament was not even finished when he
wrote of reading the signs of the times. Jesus, of course, also speaks of
certain people knowing how to read the signs of a storm coming or a bright
sunny day for the morrow.
Jesus breaks through the scepticism and unbelief of those who are in the
crowd. Jesus uses the example of Jonah and Solomon to break through the
hardheadedness of his listeners. They need to change and to change now.
Now is the acceptable time. Their mindset has to realize the goodness of
the Lord and his surprising acts of grace given freely to all good
listeners who have a faithful heart. Probably, as we know, Jesus refers in
another parallel to the passage to the sign of the Son of Man rising from
the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is so great a surprise that even
believers have a hard time in thinking about this mystery and accepting it
as real. It is probably due to our own doubts and our fears about what is
going to happen to us when we die. We are more focused on that than on the
resurrection. Our mortality becomes an issue as we grow older and more
doubtful for whatever reason--science, anxiety about our illnesses, lack of
fervor in prayer, lack of sacrifice. Death haunts us when we lose someone
whom we loved dearly and when we reason about how fast our own years are
flying by. Jesus himself has promised us eternal life if we have faith,
hope, and love. These overcome doubts and anxieties about ourself. Jesus
is the way, the truth, and the life as he tells us in John 14:6. Like the
effecitveness of God's word in the Jonah story despite his refusal to do
what God asks of him, we learn that we cannot run away from the one who
made us in the image of God and in God's likeness. Yes, Lord, I believe.
Help me to overcome my unbelief. Amen.
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