Lent Retreat – Week 1, Wednesday

Lent Retreat – Week 1, Wednesday

Readings: Jonah 3:1-10; Psalm 50; Luke 11:29-32

What is the sign of Jonah? In today’s Gospel, Jesus criticises the crowd for asking for a sign, and he tells them that they will only be given the sign of Jonah. In Matthew’s Gospel, we’re told fairly explicitly what this means: just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and nights. However, in the same incident in Luke’s Gospel we’re not given this answer: we’re left to decide for ourselves what the sign of Jonah is.

Whilst being swallowed by the fish might be the most memorable part of the book of Jonah, the most significant theme is really God’s unbounding love and compassion. As a Hebrew, Jonah didn’t care much for the Ninevites. When God asked Jonah to preach to them, he knew it meant one thing – God intended to show His mercy and love to them. Jonah didn’t want to have anything to do with this. He had an exclusive relationship with God and he didn’t want to share God with anyone else. Thus Jonah flees in the opposite direction towards Tarshish, but despite his best efforts, events catch up with him, and the great fish takes him to where he’s meant to be. So we can see the great fish as the means by which God’s message of love and compassion became available to both Jews and gentiles. In this way it is a sign of Christ’s death and resurrection through which God’s love and compassion are now available to all.

Robert Verrill OP

fr Robert Verrill  lives in the Dominican Priory in Cambridge, where he works at the University chaplaincy while completing a Doctorate at Baylor University, Texas.