Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
Jonah 3:1-10 — Luke 11:29-32
February 29, 2012
“Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.” [Luke 11:30]
In Catholic theology, typology is the study of types. A type is something (usually, someone) who foreshadows or pre-figures some future thing. A type of a person can foreshadow by means of some personal quality (for example, the physical strength of Samson might be said to foreshadow the spiritual strength of Christ; or the wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom who is Christ). A person who is a type can also foreshadow through the events of a narrative, as in today’s readings, where the narrative involving Jonah foreshadows the narrative of Holy Week…
Jonah foreshadows Jesus Christ. We see many things about Jonah and the events surrounding him that point to Jesus. But Jesus Himself mentions one thing in particular. He mentions for whom Jonah was a sign: “… Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites.” So will Jesus Himself, he explains, become a sign “to this generation.”
So He is for our generation, also. We can look back, then, to the Ninevites, as if looking in a mirror, and ask how our lives might be reflected in theirs. The Book of the Prophet Jonah is, in fact, very short. It is only four chapters long, and the chapters are 16, 11, 10 and 11 verses long, for a total of just 48 verses! Take some extra time over the next day, then, to read all 48 verses of the Book of Jonah.
Briefly: read chapter 1 to hear how the Ninevites are sinners in God’s eyes, and how Jonah is called to self-sacrifice on their behalf (of course, Jonah does not immediately follow this call, and in this way, is not a type of Christ). Read chapter 2 to hear how Jonah ‘converts’ while in the darkness (of the “large fish”) in order to carry out his call to serve the Ninevites. Read chapter 3 to hear how the Ninevites heed Jonah’s prophecy. And read chapter 4 to hear (again) how Jonah is not a type of Christ: he does not understand the Lord’s mercy toward the Ninevites, and the Lord teaches Jonah by showing him mercy, too.
But we, as Christians, have even more reason to be grateful than did the Ninevites and Jonah. In Jesus allowing Himself to be swallowed up by death, He shows us a mercy that is overflowing, abundant and without bounds. On the Cross, Jesus not only takes away our sins, but destroys death itself.
Rejoice in this merciful love. Give thanks for it, and ask God to help you in being an instrument of that same merciful love towards others. Reflect today on this question: “Are you ever tempted to flee, as Jonah did, from the Lord calling you to be an instrument of His peace?”
Michelangelo's Jonah from the Sistine Chapel, Vatican City-State