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Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, here I am. What signs of your goodness do you want me to see? How can I be more present to you in my thoughts, words, and actions today?
- This Generation Is an Evil Generation: Why did Jesus tell the crowd of people, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah”? Jesus often preached about signs and urged his disciples to pay attention to them, so he didn’t have an issue with seeking signs. What was it, then? Disciples are people who seek to learn from a master, so as to follow his doctrines more closely. We didn’t hear that disciples were present here. We heard, “People gathered in the crowd,” which is an indication to us they were not gathering to listen and follow, but to see if Jesus would perform a miracle. Jesus knew their hearts and knew they only wanted to be amazed and entertained. Therefore, no sign would be given to them. How do we view our Lord? Are we faithful disciples who want to know, love, and serve the Lord, or are we part of a crowd looking for quick and easy solutions to our problems?
- The Sign of Jonah: With his words, “Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation,” Jesus was not so gently shaking this crowd out of their complacency and presumption. Seven hundred years earlier, at the command of God, the Hebrew prophet Jonah walked the streets of Nineveh, Israel’s ancient enemy, preaching repentance for three days. All the people, from the king to his lowliest subjects, humbled themselves by wearing sackcloth and ashes. Seeing their repentance, God did not carry out the punishment planned for them. At this, Jonah complained, angry because the Lord spared them. In this passage, Jesus was reminding the crowd that God does not perform according to the will of men. God acts as he wills, and his will is always for our good. We are to work to conform our will to his, not the other way around. When we feel tempted to complain because God does not act as we want, a fitting response is to humble ourselves and pray today’s responsorial psalm: “A heart contrite and humble, O God, you will not spurn.”
- The Queen of the South: Jesus said, “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.” Solomon, the son of King David, asked God for the gift of wisdom and received it. The queen of Sheba, who we hear in 1 Kings traveled far to see him for herself, was not disappointed: “I did not believe the report until I came and saw with my own eyes that not even the half had been told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report I heard” (1 Kings 10:7). Evil, as Jesus defined it here, was to prefer the gifts over the Giver. The Jewish people were chosen by God, given his law, and sent a Son as an emissary, but they refused to see what the Ninevites and the queen of the south, outsiders to God’s covenant, quickly acknowledged. God desires a relationship with us. Do we settle for something less than the call to be his disciple? Lent is a time for us to reflect and discern whether we are wise enough to prefer the Giver over his gifts.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, so often I question what you are doing in my life. I do not see you acting, but I know you are always at work. I am sorry for looking for you when I want something rather than seeking to conform my will to yours. Forgive me, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus, Praise you, Jesus.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray the rosary every other day during Lent so that I can grow in wisdom.
Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic who seeks to make Jesus more loved through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, and motherhood, and as a writer, speaker, and events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic evangelization ministry located in San Antonio, Texas.