Monday – The Sign of Jonah
In today's Gospel, Jesus is confronted by a crowd that demands a sign. The people want to see some kind of miracle, something that will “prove” Jesus' claims and teaching. Clearly, they are far more interested in witnessing something spectacular than in learning about God and His plan.
Jesus responds quite cryptically. No sign will be given, He announces, “except the sign of Jonah.” This must have raised a few eyebrows. The sign of Jonah? How could that stubborn, pouting prophet be a sign of anything?
We might wonder that, too, so let's look closely at Jesus' meaning. Jonah was sent to warn the Ninevites that they were on the path to destruction. Of course, he went in the exactly opposite direction and ran from his mission, only to be swallowed by a giant fish. And here is where Jonah first becomes a sign. He remains inside the fish for three days and three nights. Sound familiar?
When the fish finally spits Jonah out onto the shore, the prophet wipes himself off and finally undertakes his mission. He goes to Nineveh and proclaims that in forty days the city will be destroyed for its sin. The Ninevites, even though they are Gentiles, actually take the prophet seriously, repent, and begin acts of penance. Because of their humility, God saves them and their city. Again, Jonah has become a sign. He prefigures another Person, Who would come to sinful people, even Gentiles, with a warning and an invitation to repentance and salvation.
The sign of Jonah, it seems, is a pretty good pointer for Jesus' original hearers and for us, too.
Tuesday – Freedom
Our culture holds some odd ideas about freedom. Modern people often think that to be free means to be able to do whatever one wants to do whenever one wants to do it. Freedom, for many, denotes a lack of restraint or rules or supervision and the ability to determine one's own actions independently. This kind of freedom is freedom from interference and restriction.
But this isn't God's definition of freedom. The freedom we receive from God is perfectly compatible with rules and regulations because it is far more freedom for something than freedom from something. It is freedom for truth, beauty, and goodness. It is freedom for intimacy with God. It is freedom for love, a strong, active love for God and our fellow human beings. It is freedom for faith and hope. It is freedom that helps us let go of everything that holds us back: sin, weaknesses, flaws, faults. God's freedom helps us live the best lives we can here on earth that one day we may be free to enter Heaven. Now that's the best freedom of all.
Wednesday – Fruits of the Spirit
St. Paul lists the fruits of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
These fruits grow in us as we grow in Christian living, as we open ourselves more and more to the grace of God, and as we allow God to work in and through us.
Take a few minutes today to reflect on these fruits of the Spirit, and ask yourself the following questions for each.
1. What does this fruit mean to me?
2. Where does this fruit manifest itself in my life?
3. Where is this fruit lacking or weak in my life?
4. What is one concrete thing I can do this week to help this fruit grow in my life?
Lord, may these fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, grow and flourish in me through the help of Your grace, for by them I will show You to the world. Amen.