THE “SIGN OF JONAH” FOR A WICKED GENERATION OF “SIGNS AND WONDERS”
First Reading: Jonah 3:1-10
Responsorial Psalm: 50(51):3-4,12-13,18-19
Gospel Reading: Luke 11:29-32
In an age of “signs and wonders” like ours, it appears that the number of miracles achieved by a “man of God” equates to his number of followers. The more “miracles” or “deceptions” he works in the “Name of Jesus,” the more his followers or crowds increase. Sadly, in most of these “gatherings,” the “man of God” does not often tell the crowd the truth when it is apparent that they are only after the miracles but not the message of the Good News. On the contrary, in today’s gospel reading, we see Jesus admonishing the crowd who followed him in expectation of signs and wonders. Why did Christ react this way? Shouldn’t he have felt successful and happy that his followers have grown bigger, thus, making him a celebrity like the way the “men of God” in our age feel in the midst of their massive followers?
To begin with, it is pertinent to understand the nature of the crowd in the gospels and their motivation for following Jesus. The crowds in the gospels of Mark and Luke have similar motives and characteristics. They follow Jesus because he heals the sick, and they are constantly amazed at his deeds and words – particularly his healing miracles (Mk. 1:22, 2:12, 5:20, 6:2, 7:37, 9:15, 12:37). Sometimes they are criticized for lack of understanding (Mk. 4:12) or scepticism (Mk. 6:2–4), they have various mistaken beliefs about Jesus’ identity (Mk. 6:14–15; though not in 11:9–10), and sometimes they disobey Jesus’ instructions (Mk. 7:36) or ask him to leave (Mk. 5:17).
Knowing quite well the mentality and motive of his audience, Jesus immediately reprimanded them sternly as they increased in number, saying: ‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah…’ The phrase “sign of Jonah” as used by Jesus in the Gospels was a typological metaphor for His death, burial, and resurrection. The gospel of Matthew makes it clearer; Matthew says: “For as Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so the Son of Man will be, three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Mt. 12:40). In other words, the sign of Jonah points to the passion and resurrection of Christ. And since “the Holy Eucharist is the memorial of the Passion and resurrection of Christ” (cf. CCC #1330), the sign of Jonah continues to point and redirect us to the Eucharist in this age of “signs and wonders.” It is just like hearing Christ admonish us today that no other sign would be given to us apart from Holy Eucharist, the source and summit of our Christian spirituality, in this Penitential Period of Lent; since Lent is a period in which we journey with Christ in His temptations and His fast, contemplating His sorrowful passion on the way to Calvary and death on the cross in order to celebrate with utmost joy the Easter festival.
This Penitential Period offers us the opportunity to repent and turn to God, just as the Ninevites did when they heard the preaching of Jonah as seen in today’s first reading. Needless to say, when the Ninevites heard the preaching of Jonah, together with their king, they believed God, proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth and ashes.
Dear friends in Christ, the Lord is still admonishing us our wicked generation in which many go about seeking signs, wonders, and miracles, instead of appreciating the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of His Body and Blood – the very sign of Jonah, and utilizing this Lenten season for repentance. Thus, the ashes we received last week on Ash Wednesday should enable us to understand the true meaning of repentance in this Lenten season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; just as the Ninevites did, and praying with today’s Psalmist: “Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. In your compassion blot out my offence. O wash me more and more from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin…”
May the good Lord continually fill us with His grace this period and grant us the strength to persevere in our Lenten resolution, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?