Monday of the Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time
“… no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.”
Given the dramatic narrative of Jonah in the Old Testament, one might be tempted, when hearing Jesus in today’s Gospel Reading refer to the “sign of Jonah”, to think that the sign of which Jesus speaks is the miracle of Jonah surviving his ordeal within the belly of the sea beast. While Jonah’s survival after three days in the belly of the beast foreshadows Jesus’ Resurrection, there is another sense to the phrase “sign of Jonah”. This other sense refers to something much simpler, yet just as dramatic as Jonah’s survival inside the beast.
God communicated the “sign of Jonah” to the Ninevites, and they read the sign aright. The “sign of Jonah” was the prophet’s preaching about the need for repentance. Because of his preaching, the Ninevites repented, and the Ninevites, as Jesus’ audience would have known, were a pagan people. The fact of the Ninevites’ pagan background and their repentance stand in contrast to the current “generation” to whom Jesus refers, who were members of God’s elect People, yet all too often did not heed God’s Word.
What’s more, we who are Catholics receive God’s Word made Flesh in the Holy Eucharist. We are often more obstinate and sinful than those in the Old Testament or in the Gospel accounts, in spite of the sacramental sign that is an infinitely greater gift than the “sign of Jonah”. We no less than the Ninevites need to repent, to make room in our minds and hearts for the Word of God made Flesh to dwell not just among us, but within each of us.