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WEDNESDAY OF THE 1ST WEEK OF LENT

9TH MARCH 2022


ASKING FOR A SIGN


Jonah 3:1-10 Ps 51:3-4.1213.18.19 (19b) Lk 11:29-32


Signs are important in the Christian journey. Jesus gives two signs of Jonah and the Son of Man in today’s Gospel. He explains that as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be a sign to “this generation”. So we need to ask first how it was that Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites. The Old Testament Book of Jonah presents Jonah in two ways. First, Jonah preaches the need for repentance throughout Nineveh. Second, he is thrown overboard into deep waters and is swallowed by a large fish where he spends three days, all because he is the scapegoat for the affliction facing his shipmates.

How does Jonah anticipate Jesus as a sign of Jesus' own time, given all of this? First, Jesus announces the coming of the Kingdom of God. The necessity for repentance and conversion is always preached at the start of this proclamation. However, His preaching and rescue actions eventually lead to His condemnation.


In today’s Gospel passage (Luke (11:29-32), Jesus harshly criticizes the crowd gathered to hear him, “as an evil generation because it seeks a sign” (Lk 11:29). It is evident that Jesus is speaking particularly to the doctors of the law, who ask him for a sign. Indeed, they do not see many of Jesus’ signs. But this is precisely why Jesus rebukes them on various occasions: “You are incapable of seeing the signs of the times”. For them, Jesus' words, acts, and His miracles were insufficient. Something in Jesus drew their attention and irritated their interest. However, because of His background, they did not believe He was the Messiah, as Jesus stated. They believe in their own version of the Messiah.


For Jesus, their reasoning was insufficient. Therefore, He cited two examples. The first was the inhabitants of Nineveh, who had committed several sins yet repented when the Prophet Jonah arrived to preach repentance. Jesus asserted that He was superior to Johan. Second, He cited Solomon, whose wisdom was desired by the Queen of the South. Jesus, on the other hand, was far greater than Solomon. In other words, compared to Jonah who preached to the people of Nineveh and repented and Solomon, who was admired by the Queen of the south because of his wisdom, Jesus was a superior sign to both Jonah and Solomon. Jesus was the ideal sign.


We are thus invited to ask ourselves the reason for which the doctors of the law did not understand the signs of the times and invoked an extraordinary sign. There are several answers: one of them was “because they were closed”. They were closed within their system; they had organized the law very well in a way that favored them. All of the Jews knew what one could and could not do, where one could go, and so on. But Jesus caught them unprepared, by doing “curious things”, such as siding with the sinners, and “eating with the publicans”. The doctors of the law did not like this, they found it dangerous, putting at risk the doctrine which they had been making for centuries.


For this reason, Jesus defined them as an “evil generation, inasmuch as they did not understand that the law they protected and loved was a teaching toward Jesus Christ”. And this is why Jesus rebukes the members of that generation for being closed, for being incapable of recognizing the signs of the times, for not being open to the God of surprises, for not being on a journey toward the Lord’s triumphant ending, to the point that when he explains it, they think it is blasphemy.

We are therefore invited as Christians to ask ourselves and to respond personally to the following questions: Am I closed; that is to say; attached to my possessions or properties or, to my own ideas? Or, am I open to the God of surprises? And also: “Am I a static person or a person on a journey to the kingdom of God?

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