Today, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It’s interesting that the nation of Mexico turned toward Christ within ten years of this heavenly visit and it reminded me of my thoughts about Jonah from October 10th .
“the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.”
Jonah 3: 5 & 6
The people of Nineveh responded, then the king responded to the word proclaimed by Jonah. Did the king act because he saw what his people were doing or did he respond to Jonah’s warning message without notice of his subjects? Two nights ago, a gunman opened fire in LasVegas and killed over 50 people. Evil. Now we again start the debate about gun laws. Is it guns or people who are evil? How does change come about in our society?
Can this story of Jonah and Nineveh give light to culture changes? Or is the only reason we know this story because Jesus said in Luke 11:29, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And what is this sign of Jonah? Is it the story about this great city? (It was a great city because it took three days to walk across it. In my estimate, three days of walking would be around 30 miles depending on speed of walk and heaviness of backpack. Great City) Is the sign that Jesus mentioned the turning of this great city from its evil ways?
Or is the sign of Jonah about his three days and three nights in the belly of a great fish as he prayed from the womb of Sheol? (According to one footnote in my Bible, Sheol is the biblical term for the underworld where the insubstantial souls of dead human beings dwelt. It was similar to the Hades of Greek and Latin literature. It was only after the second century B.C. that biblical books began to speak positively of life with God after death.) Well, is the sign of Jonah about these days and nights in the belly? I think so and that is the reason we know the story. But can there be more to the story about culture change, about how Nineveh turned from its evil ways? Nineveh didn’t change because of some overthrow where leaders were beheaded and citizens hauled off to become slaves. Nineveh didn’t change because of some internal revolution where again death and blood poured upon the land. Nineveh changed because of sackcloth and ashes, prayer and sorrow, attitudes and opinions curtailed. Nineveh changed because they believed the message of Jonah.
Where is our heavenly message for the evils of today? Not just the evil from the hands of a crazy gunman, but the evils of lying government leaders, of sexual scandals, of bias media newsmen where hidden agendas are at stake. I believe our evils will dissipate if we listen and follow Jesus. Our Lady of Guadalupe pointed the Mexican people to Jesus. Will we listen, put on mental sackcloth and turn from our evil ways?
Enjoy Bishop Barron’s comments about this great feast:
Friends, today we celebrate the great feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. What followed the apparition of Mary at Tepeyac is one of the most astounding chapters in the history of Christian evangelism.
Though Franciscan missionaries had been laboring in Mexico for twenty years, they had made little progress. But within ten years of the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, practically the entire Mexican people, nine million strong, had converted to Christianity. La Morena had proved a more effective evangelist than St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Patrick, and St. Francis Xavier combined! And with that great national conversion, the Aztec practice of human sacrifice came to an end. She had done battle with fallen spirits and had won a culture-changing victory for the God of love.
The challenge for us who honor her today is to join the same fight. We must announce to our culture today the truth of the God of Israel, the God of Jesus Christ, the God of nonviolence and forgiving love. And we ought, like La Morena, to be bearers of Jesus to a world that needs him more than ever.