JULY 19. Ord Time B. Wk 16. Mt 12. 38-42
Some of the scribes and Pharisees spoke up. ‘Master,’ they said ‘we should like to see a sign from you.’ He replied, ‘It is an evil and unfaithful generation that asks for a sign! The only sign it will be given is the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the sea-monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.’
The request of the scribes and Pharisees to see a “sign” highlights an important aspect of Christ’s teachings, namely; - the necessity of Faith!
The Pharisees had already witnessed numerous “signs”; - in the form of miracles; - but because their minds were so closed, they were not prepared to acknowledge these.
This meant they were not prepared to “believe” or to have “Faith”; - something that was, and is, at the very heart of Christianity!
Without faith it would be impossible to accept so many of Christ’s essential teachings, such as Eternal Life, the Real Presence of the Eucharist, or the forgiveness of sin; - to name a few!
It was simply not possible to be a Christian, a follower of Christ, and not have Faith in what Christ was proclaiming to the world.
And Christ himself declared this in response to the Pharisee’s request when he said; - “‘It is an evil and unfaithful generation that asks for a sign!”
But then, without the Pharisee’s realising it, he went on to give them advance notice of the ultimate “sign”; - in that after his coming crucifixion he would spend three days in the tomb, before rising from the dead on the third day!
And to this day Christ’s Resurrection remains the “sign” or “evidence” on which the Christian Faith is built as “if Christ is not risen, then we have not been saved!”
And then Christ went on to give them a further “lesson,” they probably did not understand either, when he referred to “the men of Nineveh” from the Old Testament.
Nineveh was the city to which the Prophet Jonah was sent to ask that they repent; - and “the men of Nineveh” believed Jonah and repented in “sackcloth and ashes”; - in contrast to the Pharisees, who refused to believe!
So, without their realising it Christ responded soundly to the Pharisee’s request for a sign, and he concluded by reference to the “Queen of the South”; - from the Old Testament; - who visited Solomon and who was astounded at the Wisdom God had bestowed on him (1Kings 10 1-10)
“The Wisdom of Solomon” was recognised by the Pharisees; - which was why Christ told them; - “there is something greater than Solomon here”; - implying they should be listening to him!
Gospel Acclamation cf.Ps94:8
If today you hear his voice,
harden not your hearts.