Tag Archives: Nineveh

Wednesday, 1st Week of Lent: The Sign of Jonah

Jonah, Roman Catacombs

Luke 11:29-32

Jonah, starting out, doesn’t seem like much of a prophet, does he? He’s a frightened man fleeing the task God gives him–to preach repentance to the great city of Nineveh. He thinks it can’t be done. He couldn’t stop the sailors who thought he cursed their ship from throwing him overboard. He would have been finished if the whale that swallowed him didn’t vomit him onto the shore at Nineveh.

The people of Nineveh paid attention to someone arriving like that– Someone escaping death from the belly of a whale? They listened to Jonah and begged for God’s forgiveness.

In Jesus, a greater than Jonah is here. He announced his death and then rose from the belly of the earth. That’s his great word, his message of hope, a sign of God’s love for us. That message must be proclaimed to the whole world and the world must hear it.

Paintings and sculptures of the story of Jonah, like the above, often appear in the early Christian catacombs of Rome. There’s Jonah thrown to the whale. On the upper right panel, Moses strikes the rock and water flows, a sign of Baptism promising life. (Note the water flows over the whale) On the panel upper left, Jesus raises Lazarus from the grave.

The story of Jonah raises our hope and nourishes our prayers. God offers us a great mission and a great vision. As it was with Jonah, we may find it beyond our understanding, but we are called to believe. Like Nineveh, our world is called to believe.

I believe in the sign
that lifted you up and blesses us,
the sign of your Cross.
You bring resurrection and life to the world,.
Help us believe in what is beyond anything we know..


God sent Jonah to the “enormously big city” of Nineveh. Three days to go through it. No wonder poor Jonah headed off in the opposite direction, seeking smallness, safe and sound. But God doesn’t call us to smallness. “You kingdom come” we pray; let’s work for it.

In this holy time,

a time of grace, Lord,

awaken kingdom dreams in us,

save us from dreaming too small.

You came to Jonah a second time,


send us into Nineveh

as your presence there.

For a homily.