Our gospel passage today tells us that for those who truly appreciate who Jesus is, there is no need for any further "sign from God" – to encourage faith and belief. In fact, it is the exercise of faith and belief that makes further signs unnecessary!
Jesus called his generation an evil one because it always needed more proof of God's favor and kindness, but he tells the disciples in the passage : no sign will be given it but the sign of Jonah : the sign of the preaching done to bring about a conversion of heart. Such preaching indeed brought about conversion – and in the nick of time! God did not destroy the great city of Nineveh, at the preaching of Jonah – a true sign of God's presence and activity for life! And the fact that the Ninevites were not even of God's people is itself a sign as well – a sign that salvation will be for all people everywhere – even Gentiles – anyone who wants to turn to him and live!
Another already present sign in the passage is that of the one who is greater than Solomon. God's people knew how wise Solomon was – but they seemed to be missing the point that one with wisdom far superior to Solomon was in their midst: Jesus – who is the very Wisdom of God made Flesh! Some sensed his true greatness – but not many – at that time!
The point of the entire gospel passage is that – especially this Lent – we need go no farther than our own hearts to find the great healer, the great reconciler, the great wisdom of God! He is there by reason of our baptism and confirmation – he is Jesus, he is Spirit, he is Father! We are so fortunate to have such vibrant and visible signs emanating from deep within us!
The first reading today tells of Jonah preaching repentance to the Ninevites! God was very angry with this people and he wanted to give them just punishment! But Jonah persuaded the people to repent, to fast and to pray: and God relented in the punishment he had in mind. In our own day in age God has every reason to be angry with a lot that is going on in our world, in our country, even in our own parishes and families! He uses me as a preacher, and he can use you as teachers of his ways to persuade family members, parishes, country, the world to repent, if they need to; to change their minds and hearts about a host of issues, if they need to; to turn more fully to the will and ways of God, in order to find a fullness, a holiness and happiness of life – and thus avoid just punishment from God.
It makes no sense to believe that God will completely ignore the way in which his laws are being violated. All he wants is for us – all of us – to return to him with our whole hearts – for he is gracious and merciful – he wants to lavish the richness of countless blessings on us, rather than a heap of burning coals!
A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. Teach us this day of Lent to be more contrite of heart and humbled than ever! Amen!
Today, if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts.