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WEDNESDAY HOMILY: The Sign of Jonah and the Papacy

By Fr Samuel Medley, SOLT
February 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (

Indeed the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is THE sign by which the entire universe is interpreted, and any sign given to man must pass through the lens of the Paschal Mystery.

HYTHE, KENT, UK (Catholic Online) - "Does it hurt?  Is it scary?" asked a young girl about death in the children's intensive care unit in the hospital I was working as a chaplain as a seminarian.  She was told that she only had a few weeks to live.  Yet she remained quite peaceful.  She kept saying that Jesus was calling her home.

She did die.  I dare say the little girl with not so little faith did rise too.

Death is the ultimate human mystery, the door through which every human person must one day walk through, the very thin veil that separates this world from the next.

Ever seen a dead man walking?  The Ninevites did.  That is why they repented.  Think about it.  What eloquent words did the prophet Jonah say to them?  "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed."  Ooooh!  Moving?  Profound?  Only if the person speaking had just been spit out of a whale after three days.

All of the Gospel is like this.  Yes, Jesus is an amazing teacher.  He healed.  He worked miracles.  He loved mightily and tenderly, reached out to the poor, faced down kings and governors with blood, skin, and spittle still hanging off of him, but none of it is really truly amazing until he rose from the dead.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is THE sign by which all others signs, words, miracles, and deeds of his whole life are interpreted.  Indeed the life, death, and resurrection of Christ is THE sign by which the entire universe is interpreted, and any sign given to man must pass through the lens of the Paschal Mystery.

It is ok to ask for signs.  In the Gospel for today Jesus isn't saying that you shouldn't ask him for a confirmation in faith.  We do it all the time.  "Show me Lord your holy Will.  Give me a sign of what to do so that I may grow closer to you."  This is a really pleasing prayer to God.  Usually when you pray like this God reveals to you some kind of direction through the Mass readings for the day, through very coincidental life experiences that cannot be denied as God breaking into your life, or just through the human heart's peace about a certain thing. 

Even the silence of God about a particular question is itself God speaking to us, a sign from him to say that he wants us to desire and choose the higher good that we can ascertain with our own reason illumined by faith.

What he IS saying is don't test God.  The pharisees tested God and asked for a wicked sign.  They said, "If you are truly are the son of God, come down from the Cross."

Why is this important for our journey through Lent?  Because we must become the sign of Jonah.  We must be the sign of God to the world.  If we are alive in Christ we must accompany him through his sufferings and temptations, his death, and especially his glorious resurrection, and in so doing, shine forth the mystery of God's tender love to the world desperately in need of this sign of God's work and presence in a dark world.

It is poignant that this Lent the Papacy will go through the Paschal Mystery, the end of one papacy and the beginning of another.  We need to pray for God's grace and mercy for the Church, that this be a smooth transition and that in it God may be fully glorified.  It is in the constancy and stability and the utter joy of receiving a new Pope that we witness to the world the constancy of Christ's promise to graft St Peter's successor into himself in a powerful way.

After Pope Benedict XVI was elected the journalists at St Peter's square were astonished to see Catholics celebrating, singing, and praying thanksgiving to God for the gift of a new Pope.  They were probably expecting sour political analysis, or rancid speculation of a new reign - anything but a people of faith giving thanks to God for shepherding his flock.

Let us pray that the sign of the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, the sign of Jonah, superabundantly shine through the end of the reign of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of a new sovereign Pontiff.

Our Lady, who is like an oasis in the desert of Lent, who accompanied Jesus spiritually through the desert of his temptation and fast, will accompany us as we are tested and tried and converted through the Lord's cross and resurrection.  May her prayers and love encourage us to become living crucifixes of God's presence, power and mercy in the world.  May she accompany the Church at this time.

Father Samuel Medley, SOLT, is a priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, and is currently based in Hythe, Kent, United Kingdom.  He is a speaks to groups around the world on Blessed Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body.  Visit his homily blog or his blog on sexual ethics

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