Wednesday, February 28, 2007

greater than Jonah

The readings for Mass today are closely linked. The first reading, from the book of Jonah, skips over the prophet's reluctance to preach and takes us right to his overwhelmingly successful foray into Nineveh (present day Mosul). His call for repentance is taken to heart and, much to Jonah's displeasure, even God "repents" of the doom He had threatened the pagan city with. In the Gospel, Jesus contrasts the responsiveness of the Ninevites with the spiritual immobility of the people of his own day. Whereas everyone, from the King on down, paid attention to Jonah's message, Jesus, who by his own admission is "greater than Jonah," cannot seem to get a hearing. Perhaps...miracles are the problem! After all, Jonah worked no miracle. There was nothing extraordinary to distract attention from his harsh message. But Jesus, in his excess of compassion, kept healing people until that was all anyone wanted from him: to keep quiet and keep working those signs. But "signs" are part of the message, and the message is basically the same, "Repent and believe the good news!"

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