Monday of Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Reading Exodus 14:5-18
Gospel Matthew 12:38-42

“‘…there is something greater than Solomon here.’”

If one were to choose a saying of Our Lord from elsewhere in the Gospel to summarize His point in today’s Gospel passage, the following would be a possibility: “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required” [Luke 12:48]. A more mundane way to express Jesus’ disapproval of the request for a sign would be to say that the scribes and Pharisees don’t know what they’re asking for. It’s dangerous to ask for a sign, because with the sign comes a responsibility.

At the end of today’s passage, Jesus contrasts the scribes and Pharisees with “the men of Nineveh” and “the queen of the south”. This isn’t meant to flatter the scribes and Pharisees. The men of Nineveh and the queen of the south were not upstanding characters. Nonetheless, the men of Nineveh were given the sign of “the preaching of Jonah”, and they responded to the sign of the prophet by repenting. The queen of the south was given the sign of the “wisdom of Solomon”, and she responded by coming from “the ends of the earth to hear” him.

Jesus’ bottom line puts the scribes and Pharisees in their place. As bad as the men of Nineveh and the queen of the south were, they repented when given signs from Jonah and Solomon. Since the scribes and Pharisees will be given a far greater sign, by one who is far greater than Jonah and Solomon (not only a prophet and king, but the divine priest as well), they will be judged by a far higher standard. Should they not repent (as up to this point in the Gospel account they had not), the conclusion is that their culpability would be far greater. What, then, of ourselves, to whom God the Father has given the life of His only-begotten Son?