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Signs to Heed
Wednesday of the First Week in 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: My Lord, you have visited your children and spoken to us through words and deeds. Send down upon me your Spirit, so that I can recognize your signs and set out on a path of conversion during this Lent season.
- Three Signs: In today’s Gospel, Jesus deals with three signs: the sign of Jonah, the sign of Solomon, and the sign of his own life and death. Jonah had been sent to the city of Nineveh to preach to an unlawful people. God had chosen Jonah to be his prophet and had thus made him into a sign to communicate his message. Against all odds, Jonah’s efforts bore fruit as the people examined their conscience and started to repent. They saw the sign and heeded its message. What would Jonah’s proclamation trigger in our own conscience if we met him today? Lent is a time in which God sends us signs that can help us to examine our thoughts, words, deeds, and omissions. Lent is a time of conversion.
- The Sign of Solomon: What kind of a sign was Solomon? Why did other rulers, such as the Queen of the South, come to see him? Solomon was a sign of wisdom, not only during his time but throughout history, as tradition keeps referring to him as the wisest among kings. Wisdom is the noblest gift of the Holy Spirit and enables a person to see the world as God sees it and to be docile to divine inspiration. Solomon was a sign of wisdom for generations and the Spirit wants to works through signs in our life too. This Lent, let us pray for greater attentiveness to the Spirit in prayer.
- Jesus Is the Final Sign: Jesus explains that he does not intend to replace the ancient signs of Jonah or Solomon. In fact, he has come to fulfill the old signs and show the completion of their truth. Thus, Jesus reiterates the need for us to examine our conscience and to repent; and, like Solomon, he irradiates the wisdom of someone who sees the world through the eyes of God. A “wicked generation” which would not heed the former signs will not heed the sign that is Jesus himself—so he foretells. This means that the only way to approach the sign of Jesus, his loving sacrifice and glorious resurrection, is by cultivating the attitude that the old signs were meant to prepare in God’s people: an awareness of our need for redemption, a willingness to convert, a sincere intention to follow God’s lead. If these are our attitudes, then Jesus’s words and deeds will fall on fertile ground in our hearts. Then we will see his sign and believe.
Conversing with Christ: My Lord Jesus Christ, as I make the Sign of the Cross or contemplate your Crucifixion, I remind myself of what moved you to make this sacrifice. After a time of helping humanity to recognize its state and after sowing the desire for redemption in us, you climbed Mount Calvary to gain the salvation we needed. I thank you and I praise you for redeeming me.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will examine my conscience seeking God’s forgiveness and committing to conversion. This could be an occasion to prepare a good confession during this Lenten season.
For Further Reflection: Catechism of the Catholic Church 1427-1429: Jesus calls to conversion. This call is an essential part of the proclamation of the kingdom: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” In the Church’s preaching, this call is addressed first to those who do not yet know Christ and his Gospel. Also, Baptism is the principal place for the first and fundamental conversion. It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism that one renounces evil and gains salvation, that is, the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of new life. Christ’s call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.” This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first. St. Peter’s conversion after he had denied his master three times bears witness to this. Jesus’s look of infinite mercy drew tears of repentance from Peter and, after the Lord’s Resurrection, a threefold affirmation of love for him. The second conversion also has a communitarian dimension, as is clear in the Lord’s call to a whole Church: “Repent!”
Written by Fr. Gabriel von Wendt, LC