Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

The sign of Jonah

While still more people gathered in the crowd, he said to them: “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation … At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here. Lk 11,29-32

The Old Testament reports that the prophet Jonah, because he refused to pray for the city of Nineveh, was thrown into the sea. The Lord ordered that he was swallowed by a big fish which, after keeping him in its belly for three days, had to dismiss him on the beach. That event, which belongs to the legend rather than to the history, foreshadows and prophesies the death of Jesus, his stay in the grave for three days and his resurrection. The today gospel refers to the sign of Jonah. After so many miracles performed by Jesus in his public life, is it not surprising that, in the today’s passage, he is saying that he will not give any sign of his divinity, if not the sign of Jonah? What happened? Has he decided not to do any more miracles? The unexpected response of Jesus is due to reason hidden into the request: he is demanded on the signs of his power, while the miracles are always born  from the love and the compassion, although they really manifest his divine power. The sign of love is infinitely greater than that of his power: it is as if they would have asked Michelangelo about the signs of his ability as a stonemason. Jesus has always avoided to show the signs of his power, but he could never escape the feeling of love, being himself infinite love. “Save yourself if you are Son of God, (and) come down from the cross” (Mt 27,40) they will shout to him when he will be close to die. If at that moment Jesus had come down from the cross, all its power would have been manifested, but we would not have believed in him, as we do not believe in anyone of the powerful men of the earth. It is because Jesus died on the cross, with atrocious tortures, but forgiving all of us, that the Roman centurion, who had seen so much earthly power, could exclaim “Truly this man was the Son of God!“ (Mk 15,39). The testimony of the cross has been the one of the Master and it has also to be that of any witness of the resurrection. The preacher of the gospel who therafter goes away is not credible: we believe in people who are willing to die for the gospel. This was the announcement of Daniele Comboni to the Africans: “I make common cause with you and the best moment will be when I can give my life for you”.  So it was. Today, Africa is plagued by many problems, starting from poverty, but we are sure it will solve it all, because there was a man who gave his life for Africa and the Lord  is not beaten by anyone in generosity.

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