Wednesday, February 21, 2018
1) Opening prayer
Forgiving, merciful God,
we pray you for a good measure
of humility and honesty
to acknowledge before you and people
that we are weak and fallible men and women,
who often try to turn a blind eye
to our shortcomings and our sins.
Strong with the grace won in the hard way
by your Son on the cross,
we beg you for the courage
to seek your forgiveness
and to turn and return wholeheartedly to you
and to serve you and people.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - Luke 11, 29-32
The crowds got even bigger and he addressed them, 'This is an evil generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be a sign to this generation.
On Judgement Day the Queen of the South will stand up against the people of this generation and be their condemnation, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, look, there is something greater than Solomon here.
On Judgement Day the men of Nineveh will appear against this generation and be its condemnation, because when Jonah preached they repented; and, look, there is something greater than Jonah here.
• We are in Lent. The Liturgy presents texts which can help us to convert ourselves and to change our life. That which helps more in conversion are the facts of the history of the People of God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus presents two episodes of the past: Jonah and the Queen of the South, and transforms this into a mirror in such a way that one can discover in them God’s call to conversion.
• Luke 11, 29: The evil generation which asks for a sign. Jesus calls the generation evil, because it does not want to believe in Jesus and continues to ask for signs which can indicate that Jesus has been sent by the Father. But Jesus refuses to present these signs, because definitively, if they ask for a sign it is because they do not believe. The only sign which will be given is that of Jonah.
• Luke 11, 30: The sign of Jonah. The sign of Jonah has two different aspects. The first one is what the text of Luke affirms in today’s Gospel. Jonah was a sign, through his preaching, for the people of Nineveh. Listening to Jonah, the people were converted. In the same way, the preaching of Jesus was a sign for his people, but the people did not show any sign of conversion . The other aspect is that which the Gospel of Matthew affirms when he quotes the same episode: “For as Jonah remained in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights” (Mt 12, 40). When the fish vomited Jonah into the dry land, he went to announce the Word of God to the people of Nineveh. Thus, in the same way, after the death and resurrection on the third day, the Good News will be announced to the people of Judah.
• Luke 11, 31: The Queen of the South. Following this Jesus recalls the story of the Queen of the South, who came from the ends of the earth to meet Solomon, and to learn from his wisdom (cfr. I Kg 10, 1-10). And twice Jesus affirms: “And, look, there is something greater than Solomon here”. “And, look, there is something much greater than Jonah here”.
• A very important aspect which is subjacent in the discussion between Jesus and the leaders of his People is the diverse way in which Jesus and his enemies place themselves before God. The Book of Jonah is a parable, which criticizes the mentality of those who wanted God only for the Jews. In the story of Jonah, the pagans were converted listening to the preaching of Jonah and God accepts them in his goodness and does not destroy the city. When Jonah sees that God accepts the people of Nineveh and does not destroy the city “Jonah became very indignant, he fell into a rage. He prayed to the Lord : ‘Lord, please is not this what I said would happen when I was still in my own country? That was why I first tried to flee to Tarshish, since I knew you were a tender, compassionate God, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, who relents about inflicting disaster. So now, Lord, please take my life, for I might as well be dead as go on living!.” (Jon 4, 1-3). For this reason, Jonah was a sign for the Jews of the time of Jesus and it continues to be for us Christians. Then, in an imperceptible way, like Jonah, in us there is also the mentality according to which we Christians would have a certain monopoly on God and all others should become Christians. This would be proselytism. Jesus does not ask that all become Christians. He wants for all to be disciples (Mt 28, 19), that is, that they be persons who, like him, radiate and announce the Good News of the love of God for all peoples (Mk 16, 15).
4) Personal questions
• Lent, the time for conversion. What has to change in the image of God that I have? Am I like Jonah or like Jesus?
• On what is my faith based, founded? In signs or in the Word of Jesus?
5) Concluding Prayer
God, create in me a clean heart,
renew within me a resolute spirit,
do not thrust me away from your presence,
do not take away from me your spirit of holiness. (Ps 51,10-11)