The Sign of Jonah and the Forty Days of Lent 

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This generation is evil; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation.” (Luke 11:29-30)

The entire book of Jonah is a story of God’s unending faith in humanity. God did not destroy them for their sins but gave them a second chance by sending Jonah to them. Jonah thought he could run away from God but after spending three days in the belly of the fish, it dawned on him that God is everywhere. No one can run from God.

From the belly of the fish, Jonah begged for a second chance. We serve a merciful God who never gives up on His children; a God who would leave the ninety-nine in search of the one that went astray; a God who is ever ready to forgive.

When Jonah got to Nineveh, he did not preach to the Ninevites. He didn’t say: “Change your evil ways. Stop sinning, etc.” He simply went across the city announcing: “Only forty days from now and Nineveh would be destroyed…” Surprisingly, the people believed the word of Jonah; they did not attack him for telling them the truth. The effectiveness of a message does not depend on the preacher but the grace of God.

The forty days of Jonah’s proclamation remind us of the forty days of Lent. As we hear the words of Jonah today, let us place ourselves in the position of the Ninevites. Let us return to God with fasting, ashes, and sackcloth. The King of Nineveh said: “This is a time to fast, a time to turn away from violence, a time to walk away from sinful pleasures and bad habits, a time to seek God’s face like never before.”

Imagine you have only forty days left to live on earth? How would you spend your last forty days? Wouldn’t you rather seek reconciliation with God? During the Stations of the Cross, we hear: “Those you love will part from you. You too will die one day; a day you do not know, are you prepared for it?”

In our Gospel passage, Jesus is not happy with the crowds who were pressuring Him to work signs and wonders. For seeking signs, they behaved like the devil who wanted Jesus to change stones to bread to prove that He is the Son of God. Jesus told them the only sign they would be given is the sign of Jonah. What is this sign of Jonah? The fact that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. This is the only sign we need.

Let us pray: Lord Jesus, change me completely from inside out. Amen.

Bible Study: Jonah 3:1-10, Ps. 51:3-4,12-13,18-19, Luke 11:29-32).

Fr. Abu

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