The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Homily: Monday, 16th Week of Ordinary Time (Year II)

Readings: Mic 6:1-4, 6-8 • Ps 50 • Mt 12:38-42

“…an evil and unfaithful generation” [Mt 12:39]. Jesus came on pretty strong here, didn’t he? Actually, only moments earlier he’d called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” [Mt 12:34], so I suppose this wasn’t so bad.

Poor Pharisees. They seemed to be in conflict, didn’t they? They saw all the wondrous things Jesus did, and were attracted to Him. But, at the same time, they just couldn’t accept that this humble teacher was anything special. It really bothered them that in essence He’d declared Himself greater than the Temple and the Sabbath, greater than Abraham and Moses, and now, greater than Jonah and Solomon.

And so they asked for a sign. To which Jesus seemed to reply: 

Stop looking at your scrolls and laws; just look at Me, the One standing before you. Everything God has already told you points only to Me. 

And it’s this self-revelation by Jesus that bothered them no end. Indeed, just a few verses later, Jesus said to them:
“But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” [Mt 13:16-17].
And yet, they still asked for a sign. They heard His words and witnessed His deeds, but it was all encased in His humility. And this they couldn’t understand. How can the Messiah, the Lord of History, God’s anointed One, be a servant?

Imagine Jesus’ frustration. These Pharisees, these teachers of the Law, still didn’t realize that Jesus Himself was the sign for which they searched. They demanded to see what was standing right before them.

Jesus must have been thinking back to those words of Micah from our first reading:

“You have been told…what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: only to do the right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” [Mic 6:8].
Here they were, able to walk with their God, the God they wouldn’t recognize because they rejected the humility. They simply wouldn’t listen. Yes, indeed, an “evil and unfaithful” generation. They ignored Jesus Himself, preferring to hear words and words and more words, instead of embracing the Word of God standing in their midst.

"the LORD commanded the fish to vomit Jonah upon dry land"
You reject Me, and yet you demand a sign from me?

Oh, yes, you will certainly receive a sign, the Sign of Jonah – Jonah whose preaching about an unseen God led the king of Nineveh to cover himself in sackcloth and sit in ashes. But before his prophetic preaching, before his mission to Nineveh, Jonah spent three days buried away from the world in repentance for his sins. How did Jesus put it?

“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” [Mt 12:40].

He was made sin...
Jesus was buried not for His sins, but for our sins. As St. Paul reminded the Corinthians:

“For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” [2 Cor 5:21].

Jonah saved the Ninevites by admitting his own sin and repenting. He allowed himself to be thrown into the sea, but not into death, for God saved him.

Jesus, who is sinless, saves the world by taking on the sins of the entire human race. He becomes sin, every sin from the very beginning of time, and weighed down by it all, He throws Himself into death, into real death.

You see, brothers and sisters, it’s all for the Pharisees, it’s all for the sinners, it’s all for us.

Tell this to everyone you know. Shout it in the streets, in the marketplace, tell your children and grandchildren, tell each other. 

God won’t abandon us because of our sinfulness; He won’t abandon us because we turn our backs on Him who loves us.

This is the “Sign of Jonah.” It’s the Sign of the Cross.

It’s this sign that lets Him break through our resistance to His Love.

After He was raised up on the Cross, Jesus Christ lowered Himself – that was His mission. In total humility He descends, lowering Himself into the lowest, darkest places of creation, just as Jonah was lowered into darkness.

But Jesus goes further; He goes into the darkest depths of the human heart, and it’s there He brings the Light of Christ.

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