The Sign of Jonah

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Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time


Matthew 12:38-42

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here. At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.”


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, increase my faith in your victorious presence in my life and in the world.


Encountering Christ:


  1. Sign Seeking: The scribes and the Pharisees sought a sign from Jesus. How often are we sign seekers? The sign was standing before their eyes: the Son of Man, the God-man, in flesh among them. He manifested his supreme reign not by power but by meekness. He reached out to the outcast and sinners. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, forgave sin, and even calmed nature’s tempestuous storms. The signs were written all over his preaching of the coming of the kingdom. But the greatest sign was to be his supreme conquest over death. He sets them up for the possibility of belief by mentioning Jonah, Nineveh, and the queen of the south.
  2. Invitation to Conversion: Jesus’s references to people and events in the past were meant to provoke awareness of their need to convert. Signs, prophets, and God’s message to repent have been offered throughout history. Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of the whale until he finally accepted his God-given mission to bring the message of repentance to Nineveh. Jesus would be three days and three nights in the belly of the earth. He would bring the gift of expiation from our sins. He brought true salvation to all who accepted it through the grace of faith. Nineveh, a foreign city, accepted repentance, at least temporarily, and yet the very people called to be his own continued to reject him. Likewise, the queen of the south, the Queen of Sheba, recognized the godly wisdom of Solomon’s words, yet the scribes and Pharisees, raised in the tradition of worshipping the one God, did not recognize the coming of the Messiah. Do we recognize what God has already revealed to us, explained and handed down to us by the Church? Do we recognize the Savior in our midst, or are we narrow-minded and shortsighted due to demanding specific signs from the Lord?
  3. A Judgment to Come—Hope for Eternal Life: Revelation 20:11-12 paints the picture of the Victor and Judge sitting on a large white throne as the book of life is opened and the dead are judged. Only he who is conqueror and first victor over sin and death admits all those who follow after him. The True Judge will recognize the sign of those who call themselves followers—his own seal placed upon them. They will be marked as true believers, as children of the heavenly Father. Their garments will be washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. In prayer, we can contemplate standing before the Triumphant Lord, Christ our King and Victor. We can watch him open the book of life and ask that he pour out his blood upon us, marking us with his seal, that we may enter into the fullness of his kingdom. We place our trust in his gift of salvation that he offers daily through all the means at our disposal: the Eucharist, Confession, his daily grace.


Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, thank you for your gift of salvation and for all the ways you make yourself known and present to me. Grant me a greater faith to see your victorious grace at work in this world, in my family, and in my life. Help me to open my heart to the gift of salvation that you offer to me. May my day be offered for those who “miss the signs” of your presence and action. 


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will offer acts of faith for those who do not believe or who are on the verge of rejecting you due to doubt. 

For Further Reflection: Doubting God, Scrupulosity, and Spiritual Tiredness, Ask Matt Fradd.


Written by Jennifer Ristine.

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