In the life of the body a man is sometimes sick, and unless he takes medicine, he will die. Even so in the spiritual life a man is sick on account of sin. For that reason he needs medicine so that he may be restored to health; and this grace is bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance. - St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274: Doctor of the Church. He was an Italian Dominican friar Roman Catholic priest, who was an immensely influential philosopher and theologian)
Gospel Text: (LK 11:29-32)
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
On the simplest level, in our modern day world I am constantly amazed at how difficult it is to admit even a small wrong-doing. My ego becomes challenged in this way and perhaps yours does, too. I suppose that is because if we acknowledge we made a mistake, fell short of our best or were less than kind, then we must somehow think a little differently about ourselves. Maybe other people will, too. Perhaps I’m not as smart as I thought I was; as hard a worker; as good a spouse, friend or parent. I become more vulnerable to myself and others without the “shield” of perfection.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus says to the crowd “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah…. And there is something greater than Jonah here.”
The Jonahs of today don’t fare as well as he did, at least in terms of “results”. Fear doesn’t motivate us anymore; we tune out the doomsday messages. If there is going to be destruction, we know that it is more the result of human actions, not God’s. Perhaps Pope Francis is the sign of Jonah today pointing to “the more” -- something greater, something more deeply satisfying than our meager sense of fairness. If we listen deeply enough, we all hunger for God’s tremendous love and mercy, not just for ourselves, but for everyone. Quoting Pope Francis:
“God's mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14). ... Let us be renewed by God's mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.” - Easter Urbi et Orbi message on March 31, 2013