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In the Gospel passage from St Luke today, Jesus says: 
“This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign.The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah.” 

Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites and his preaching led them to repent of their sins.  He was said to have spent three days swallowed by a whale – Jesus would spend three days in the tomb. 

“The sign of Jonah” is Jesus himself. The sign would be his life, suffering, death and resurrection. 

The Jewish leaders were looking for extraordinary signs from Jesus to prove that he was the prophet from God. They seem to have ignored the signs he had already given; they wanted more. 

Original the religious leaders had organised their practice of religion and its laws to help people be faithful to God. But it had degenerated into a harsh, closed system. Everyone knew who they could talk to, what they could do and not do, where they could go and not go, what they could eat and what they could not, when they had to wash, what they had to wash. Every aspect of life was regulated and organised. 

Jesus came along suggesting things which did not fit neatly into their closed system. Jesus openly chatted with women. He mixed with prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners; he touched lepers and with his disciples didn’t follow the Pharisees fasting and sabbath laws. 

The Jewish leaders couldn’t understand any of this. It didn’t fit with their laws and their vision of how to be faithful to God. They saw Jesus as a risk to their system, to their security and to their doctrines which had been built up over centuries. 

This stopped them seeing Jesus as the sign who had come to save them. They could not recognise “the only sign the would be given”.  As Jesus said, they could not recognise that: 

“there is something greater … here.” 

They asked for signs, when they already had the only sign they needed. 

This time of Lent offers us a change to renew our ability to see Jesus as the only sign we need. In Lent, though extra prayer, giving up things or fasting and through sharing with the poor, we remind ourselves that Jesus is all we really need. 

Lent is a 40 day reminder for us that: 

“there is something greater … here” 

Today, we should hear Jesus speaking those words to us: “there is something greater … here”

In his letter on our call to holiness in today’s world (Gaudete et Exsultate), Pope Francis spoke of how easy it is to “leave no room for God’s voice to be heard” in our lives, he said: 

“We are overwhelmed by words, by superficial pleasures and by an increasing noise.” (Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate, #29) 

Then he asks us a challenging question: 

“How can we fail to realize the need to stop this rat race and to recover the personal space needed to carry on a heartfelt dialogue with God?” (Ibid) 
  • Lent invites us to develop again the habit of finding “personal space” for prayer, for self-denial and for sharing with others. 

  • Lent invites us to stop, stand back and avoid being overwhelmed by words, by superficial pleasures and by an increasing noise. 

  • Lent invites us to make room in our lives for God’s voice to be heard. 

If we take it seriously, Lent is an opportunity to “stop the rat race”, recognise again that there is “something greater” in our lives and to see Jesus as the only sign we really need.