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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: October 10, 2016
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily for seminarians at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana on Monday, Oct. 10, 2016.
What is the sign of Jonah? In Matthew's Gospel the sign of Jonah refers primarily to Jesus' death and resurrection, something lacking in today's Gospel from Luke. Matthew says: "Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights."
But Matthew does agree with Luke in that it also refers to reaching out to people on the periphery, which is the main point in Luke — in this case the inclusion of the Gentiles in the plan of God, represented by the conversion of Nineveh at the preaching of Jonah and the visit of the queen of the south to hear the wisdom of Solomon.
So for both Matthew and Luke the answer to the "sign" requested by Jesus' adversaries was the proclamation of the Good News to those you would least expect — and their positive response.
... We need to create a culture of encounter to serve as an antidote to our godless, throwaway culture in which people who are seen as useless are cast aside: the unborn, the elderly, the immigrants, the poor, etc.
What is the sign of Jonah today? I think it is the missionary transformation of the Church, the new evangelization called for by our last three popes, in which we are called to go out to the periphery and bring the Good News to those whose conversion may be every bit as unexpected as that of the people of Nineveh in Jonah's time.
And to do this Pope Francis insists repeatedly in "Evangelii Gaudium" that we need to create a culture of encounter to serve as an antidote to our godless, throwaway culture in which people who are seen as useless are cast aside: the unborn, the elderly, the immigrants, the poor, etc.
In this, our Church must be a countercultural "sign of Jonah" for the people of today. If we encounter Christ in those people who are usually marginalized and get to know them, we won't be able to throw them away.
You don't ignore and neglect a friend. As priests, we are called to be an alter Christus (another Christ) for others. So if Jesus was to be a sign of Jonah for his times, we are called to be a living sign of Jonah for our times.
And it is in Jesus, our Savior, that we can find the courage to leave our comfort zone in order to encounter those who are on the margin of society today.