Sunday, October 9, 2016

"THIS GENERATION SEEKS A SIGN."


Homily for October 10th, 2016: Luke 11: 29-32

         “This generation seeks a sign,” Jesus says. He is referring to the repeated demand of his contemporaries for a miracle so dramatic that it will force them to believe. We heard this demand in he gospel reading las Friday, as we noted then, belief cannot be forced, any more than love can be forced. Jesus’ miracles confirm the faith of those who already believe. They do not force belief on those whose hearts and minds are closed to him and his message.

          Jesus then mentions two such confirming signs: Jonah, and the so-called queen of the south, Sheba. Jonah’s sign was not his survival in the belly of the great fish. We saw when we were reading Jonah last week that this was one of the parts of Jonah’s story which showed that it was fiction – though, like much great fiction, notably Jesus’ parables and Shakespeare’s plays, the vehicle for important truth about God, humanity, and life. The sign of Jonah which Jesus refers to is the immediate repentance of the people of Nineveh – Gentiles without the gift of God’s law – in response to Jonah’s preaching. Jesus contrasts the response of the Ninevites with the failure of so many of his own people to respond to his message.

          The sign of Queen Sheba is different, though in one respect the same. Like Jonah, she came from afar, motivated however not by a divine command, but by the report that King Solomon possessed wisdom greater than that of all other rulers or sages. “There is something greater than Solomon here,” Jesus says. He is referring to himself. He not merely possesses wisdom: Jesus is wisdom personified. Similarly the statement that “there is something greater than Jonah here” means that Jesus’ message is more compelling than Jonah’s -- yet the people still do not respond. Jesus sums up by saying that the Ninevites and Queen Sheba showed a readiness to respond which his own people do not.

Are we responding? “I have come,” Jesus says in John’s gospel, “that they may have life, and have it to the full” (10:10). Are we embracing Jesus’ offer of life to the full? Or do we think of our faith as observing enough of the Church’s complicated rules and regulations to be able, on Judgment Day, to squeeze our way into heaven?
          Think about it – more important, pray about it!