The Sign of Maximum Love

2.21.18  Wed.  Wk 1 – Lent  (II)
Book of the Prophet Jonah  3:  1 – 10
Gospel  of  Luke  11:  29 – 32

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 queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here.  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.

The Gospel of the Lord


Homily:  Fr. Mike Murphy                    The Sign of Maximum Love

“This generation is an evil generation”; †Jesus says: “It seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” (Luke 11:29f)  †Jesus appears to use Jonah as an example of a faith-filled and obedient servant, at least compared to the people who are listening to His teaching that particular day.  Many people understand: ‘The sign of Jonah’ to be his three days in the belly of the whale; this compared to the three days that †Jesus spent in the tomb before His Resurrection.  And I believe this is an acceptable interpretation, but there is more depth to these Words of †Jesus.  In a way, †Jesus is pointing out the flaws and the lack of faith in Jonah, as well.  So He is using Jonah as an example from a negative point of view; showing how God’s Will is accomplished despite our lack of faith and our demand for signs.

Jonah was a reluctant preacher, he ran away when God asked him to preach to the people of Nineveh.  Jonah had great contempt for the Ninevite people. They were not the ‘Chosen People’, they were pagans.  He did not want to preach to them, he did not want to give them a chance to repent.  And when God held back His punishment from Nineveh, Jonah was upset.  He wanted those people wiped out.  In fact, when God relented of His punishment, Jonah went outside the town, built a little hut, went inside the hut and pouted.  He was pouting because God let these people ‘off the hook’.

Unlike Jonah, the Ninevites were not reluctant in their repentance.  They did not hesitate to engage in penance for their sinfulness.  We read: “They proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small put on sackcloth”. (Jonah 3:5)  In fact, the people of Nineveh embraced the three principles of discipleship that †Jesus was teaching to His apostles.  The same ones we heard last week on Ash Wednesday: “Prayer, fasting and almsgiving”.  We read that “The King of Nineveh…proclaimed: ‘Everyone should call loudly to God’ (prayer)….Neither man nor beast shall taste anything, they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water’ (fasting’…Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth’ (almsgiving)”.  (Almsgiving in the sense that we deny our self something for the good of another.)

So – in the Gospel then – †Jesus lifted up the Ninevites and the “Queen of the South” as people of Faith.   They were not part of the ‘Chosen People’.  The Queen of the South was queen of Ethiopia and she visited Solomon to learn the ‘Wisdom’ from Solomon.   (Nineveh is a Babylonian city, it is where modern day Mosul, Iraq is located.)  The Queen of the South spared no cost or inconvenience to hear the Wisdom of Solomon.  The people of Nineveh repented with great fervor.  These people did the maximum they could to change their lives.  Jonah seemed to do only the minimum in responding to God’s Will.

We read that it would take three days to walk through the City of Nineveh to preach repentance.  Jonah walked for one day – just one day.  †Jesus would show how much God loved us to the maximum; after †Jesus died on the cross, He spent three days in the tomb compared to Jonah’s one day of walking.  Jonah just did the minimum; †Jesus did the maximum.

Here’s another part to the ‘Sign of Jonah’ and it is this – God can take our small expressions of faith, our weak faith, even our reluctant faith, and bring about miracles.  Is that the ‘Sign of Jonah?

When †Jesus declared: “There is something greater than Jonah here”, (Luke 11:32) He was describing the tremendous love of God for us.  God who would show to us to the maximum – how much He loves us.  “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him, might not perish, but might have eternal life” (Jn.3:16).  “The sign of Jonah – something greater than Jonah here”!

We tend to do the minimum when it comes to loving God.  The Lord always does the maximum when it comes to loving us.  Let’s resolve that this Lent – not to be half-hearted Jonah’s.  We are called not to be lukewarm disciples – but Christianity is for the committed and the wholehearted – for those who are a part of a “revolution of love”.  Christian minimalism is slavery to self and slavery to the evil-doer who doesn’t want us to get close to God.   It is to say: “No” to the two great Commandments of †Jesus: – “To love God with all our hearts – all our strength – all our soul and – all our mind; and to love our neighbor as our self”.  “All” – that’s Christian maximalism.

So – let us say: “Yes” to the maximum love of God.

Let us say: “Yes” to our call to be a saint.

Let us say: “Yes” to our call to Holiness.

In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.