Gal 4:22-24, 26-27, 31–5:1; Ps 113:1-7; Lk 11:29-32
Why does Psalm 113 invite the servants of the LORD to praise the name of the LORD? Why must that praise last from the rising of the sun to its setting? Does the praise of King David arise from his lowly heart? Does the Psalmist give praise from the dunghill? The Name of the LORD is blessed forever. His servants are summoned to praise and bless his Name, now and forever! If the servants of the LORD praise his name from the rising to the setting of the sun, perhaps the nations will come to know the glory of the LORD who is high above the heavens. If the chosen ones bless and praise the Name Most Holy, perhaps those who do not yet know his majesty will come to trust in the Power of His Name. Indeed, all the peoples and all the nations will come to ask: “Who is like the LORD, our God, who looks upon the heavens and the earth below?” Indeed, those who are powerless and insignificant, those who live on the dunghill, are the objects of the Lord’s preferential option. The LORD, our God, has chosen to lift up the lowly so that all peoples will come to praise and bless his Holy Name. When all the peoples behold his compassion and his condescension, how can they not praise and bless the LORD, our God? Saint Paul does not hold back in his proclamation of the mystery of the Lord’s universal salvific will. Indeed, the Lord Jesus has come to reveal the Father’s love for all his children, for all who are reborn in Christ are born from the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city. The Lord Jesus proclaims that Jonah is the only sign we need to repent and to live in the wisdom of the New Solomon. Indeed, Christ is the Eternal Wisdom of the Father who has come in the power of the Holy Spirit to bring all of us sinners into glory of our new home, the Jerusalem from above.
The Letter to the Galatians is dense and difficult for believers of every generation, and the lectionary does us no favors in cutting up our first reading for today’s Mass. Saint Paul is teaching his pagan converts about their unique dignity as brothers and sisters of the Son of the Promise. Just because some of the believers were born of the Old Covenant, they do not have more importance or value in the eyes of the Father. The Father loves all his children, just as Abraham loved both of his sons. Hagar’s child is still a son of Abraham. Sarah’s son is the child of a promise to Abraham. The God of the Covenant takes care of both children because of his faithful love for Abraham. Both Isaac and Ishmael inherit great wealth and power in the Land the Lord gives to them. These two sons of our Father in Faith are an allegory of the two kinds of converts in the Church in Galatia, the Jewish and the Gentile converts. Indeed, all are children of the freeborn woman because all are free in Christ. Saint Paul summons all his children in the church to stand firm in the universal love of the gospel and not submit to the yoke of slavery, the oppression of race, ethnicity, or inheritance. We are free in Christ; we are free to love others as the Father loves us in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Disunity and divisiveness are no way for children of the promise to live. Indeed, the cross of Christ has smashed the yoke of slavery.
Just as we cannot understand the arguments made in the Letter to the Galatians without first understanding the story of Abraham, so too, it is impossible for us to understand the only-sign-teaching in today’s gospel, without first understanding the Book of Jonah. Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ, as our holy father Saint Jerome teaches us. Indeed, the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament and the New Testament is understood in the Old Testament. How was the Prophet Jonah a sign to the Ninevites? What was it about his preaching or his person that initiated such a national conversion? Saint Luke continues with these analogies. Just in case you missed the last one, he offers another analogy. Why will the queen of the south, a pagan monarch, judge the men of this generation? The Prophet Jonah converted a pagan nation, and an enemy of Israel, by his preaching. How could this happen? Perhaps because of the great irony of a Jewish Prophet pouring himself out from one side of an extremely large city to another preaching, “Repent, for the LORD in forty days the LORD will destroy this city!” Why should this Jewish Prophet care? He doesn’t; as a matter of fact, he hates this city and this mission of mercy. This fact is clearly seen in his efforts to flee in the opposite direction of Nineveh. Jonah is persuasive because of his prejudice. He hates these people, but God loves them. That is enough to summon their pagan hearts to true repentance. Likewise, the queen of the south traveled a dangerous and demanding journey to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Her desire to know the truth is a judgment on all who flee from the truth of the preaching of the Lord Jesus. Their desire to remain in the darkness is revealed by the pagan queen’s desire to remain in wisdom. Yet, those who heard the Lord Jesus preaching demanded to see an irrefutable sign. There is no such sign. Nor will there ever be a sign that no one can deny. Even the sign of the Cross is still refuted and denied some two thousand years later. Yet, still there is someone greater than Jonah and even greater than Solomon, here. He is the New Jonah and the New Solomon. He is the Prophet like Moses and greater than Moses; he has more wisdom than the wisest man who ever lived. He is Jesus the Christ in whom we are free to live and move and have our being.