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March 1st - the sign of Jonah

Fr. Michael MachacekNativity of Our LordMarch 1, 2023

today's readings are Jonah 3: 1-10; Psalm 51 and Lk. 11: 29-32

The rather short book of Jonah in the Old Testament is a book that is a favourite of many believers, myself included. It is a story of an extremely reluctant prophet of God who through whom God accomplished so much. 

In our gospel today Jesus speaks of the sign of Jonah. Now at first glance one could come up with many possibilities what this sign could be, such as the three days Jonah spent in the belly of the whale which may point to Jesus' 3 days in the tomb.  But on closer examination the sign of Jonah refers to his preaching, at which the Ninevites suddenly and dramatically repented. Hundreds of years later, Jesus hears the people demanding more and more signs (i.e. miracles) that will convince them to repent. But they will receive no such sign, only His preaching that without repentance they would bring down judgment upon themselves. 

Jonah's reluctant preaching caused Assyria, an arrogant, powerful kingdom, to repent.  In Jesus' eyes, Israel should do as least as much, for unlike Jonah, Israel is now confronted with Someone who was sharing with them a message of glory and challenge and grace, accompanied by so many signs.  But they would not repent in the presence of the Son of God. And this would be their downfall.

On Ash Wednesday, we heard the simple message, “Repent and hear good news.”  This is the sign of Jonah. Do we see it, and will we act? This is our Lenten challenge.