Today’s Gospel reading is a continuation of two previous readings from Matthew. We may recall the first of the two readings, where Jesus is accused of doing what he does by the power of Satan? An accusation which he easily shows is contradictory and makes no sense. And, in that second previous reading, he says that a tree that is rotten inside cannot produce good fruit. Goodness comes from a person’s interior. The words are directed at his accusers whom he, more than once, accuses of being hypocrites: pious and law-abiding on the outside and full of malice inside.
And, it is no coincidence that these same people approach Jesus in today’s Gospel. We don’t know their attitude when they ask Jesus for a sign. Is this a genuine request for Jesus to show the source of his authority and power or is it a hostile demand for Jesus to present his credentials?
In response, Jesus first says that “it is an evil and unfaithful (literally, ‘adulterous’) generation that asks for a sign”. Yes, evil and unfaithful, because for anyone with an open mind, Jesus has been giving signs ever since he began his public life. So-called ordinary people have been full of praise and amazement at what Jesus is doing. They believe that “God has truly visited his people”. But these leaders, blinded by their own prejudice, are saying that the teaching, exorcisms and healings of Jesus are the work of Satan.
In addition to all this, these people are going to get a definite sign of who Jesus really is. They will be given the “sign of Jonah”. Just as Jonah spent three days buried in the belly of the sea monster, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and nights. This is a clear reference to Jesus’ resurrection – the conclusive sign of his identity and power.
The mention of Jonah leads Jesus to say that the people of Nineveh who repented after hearing Jonah will fare better at the last judgment than the people that Jesus is speaking with. And Jesus is of far more significant than Jonah.
In the same way, the Queen of the South, that is, the Queen of Sheba, who came from a far distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon will fare better than the unbelieving listeners to Jesus, who is greater by far than Solomon.
We, too, have the privilege of listening to Jesus through these Gospel readings, and we know the sign of his resurrection. Can it be possible that there are people around us who do not know the “fullness of the truth” as we do, but follow the guidance of natural law, find themselves entering before us into the Kingdom? Complacency is probably one of our biggest temptations. “I am content enough; I observe the basic requirements of my faith, I am comfortable.” Therefore, the question becomes, is that all that Jesus expects of us? That should be a definite no…
Yours in Christ,
Deacon James Carabajal