Commentary on the Gospel of
Wednesday of the First Week in Lent
When I see any reference to Jonah, I think of the story of the little girl who in Sunday school was mesmerized with the account of Jonah being swallowed by a whale and spending three days and nights in the whale’s belly. The next day in science class, she very excitedly recounts the story to her science teacher. The teacher, who happened to be an atheist, tells her that her story was scientifically inaccurate as it was not possible for a whale to swallow a human because its throat was very small. The girl however did not relent and steadfastly reiterated that the Bible did say that the whale swallowed Jonah. The irritated teacher once again claims the impossibility of that happening. The little girl does not give up and tells the teacher that when she dies and goes to heaven she will ask Jonah. The teacher sarcastically replied “What if Jonah isn’t in heaven?” Without blinking an eyelid, the girl replies, “If that is the case, then you ask him.”
At first glance, today’s gospel reading might seem to suggest that Jesus is against asking for signs. But most of us seek signs. I sought a sign when I felt called to joining the priesthood. In fact, the first time when I was thinking of the priesthood, I did not join as I did not receive any sign. It was many years later, after I finished college, and had worked for a few years, that the call came again. And, a sign. So, it couldn’t be that Jesus was opposed to seeking signs or affirmations. Why then does Jesus accuse the people around him of being an evil generation that is looking for a sign? If we read the verses before today’s reading, we will see that the people are accusing Jesus of performing his miracles and healings through the power of Beelzebul, the prince of devils. Their interior disposition, as in the case of the teacher in our story, was one of distrust and disbelief. It is this disposition that Jesus is criticizing, saying that the only sign that would be given them would be the sign of Jonah, referring to his own death and resurrection.
As I reflected on the reading, the word that came to mind was “receptivity.” As believers of Jesus, we already acknowledge the sign of God’s love for us through the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. But how receptive are we to the manifestation of that love in our daily lives? What is our interior disposition even in the midst of turmoil and strife? Are we able to recognize God working through us, and through others, performing little miracles in our own world?
I would like to end this reflection with an excerpt from a composition by Fr. Roy Pereira, S.J., from the Mumbai Province in India, who is with us at Creighton University this semester, as the Waite Chair:
Hope, Faith and Love’s what keeps life moving on
Hope, Faith and Love that’s what’s life all about
Hope, Faith and Love my friend will see us through
Hope, Faith and Love my friend, In a God who loves
During this season of Lent, I pray that our interior disposition of ‘Hope, Faith, and Love in a God who loves’ grows.