What Is the Sign of Jonah and Has It Come Upon Us?

Newborn babyIn today’s Gospel the Lord says, This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah (Lk 11:30). So what is the sign of Jonah and does it apply today?

The Gospels (Matthew and Luke) present two signs of Jonah, one of which particularly concerns us here.

  1. First Sign: In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus invokes Jonah in a twofold way: For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matt 12:40). In this image, Jonah’s descent into the belly of the whale is a sign of the Lord’s descent to Sheol. For the sake of brevity, I would like to set aside this first sign and go on to discuss the second sign of Jonah. (Matthew’s Gospel sets this second sign forth in essentially the same way as the Lucan version we heard today at Mass.)
  2. Second Sign: In the Lucan version, read at today’s Mass, the mention of the whale is omitted and only this second sign is declared: This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here (Luke 11:29-32).

But the question remains, what exactly is this (second) sign of Jonah? On one level, the text seems to spell it out rather clearly. Jonah had gone to the Ninevites with this message: Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed (Jonah 3:3). In response, the Ninevites (led by their King) repented, fasted, and prayed. Seeing their actions, God relented and did not destroy them. So on one level the sign of Jonah is the message “Repent or die.” Just as the Ninevites heard Jonah’s warning, put faith in it, and were spared, so the people of Jesus’ time should put faith in His warning to repent and believe the Good News. If they do not, they will meet with great disaster.

What would cause this disaster? The description of the sign of Jonah taps into the historical context of Jonah’s ministry, but applied to the people of Jesus’ time it has a polemical tone. Let’s consider why.

  1. When Jonah was told to go to Nineveh, he resisted. He must have thought that it was a no-win situation for him: either they would rebuff his prophecy (and likely kill him) or they would heed his message and grow stronger. (Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, the mortal enemy of Israel, and Jonah had no interest in seeing them strengthened.)
  2. When Jonah makes his announcement of imminent destruction, Assyria does In their strength they would become a rod in God’s hand to punish Israel. Isaiah the Prophet had well described Israel’s crimes and said that punishment would surely come upon her from Assyria. God would use Assyria to humble and punish His people, Israel. Here is a key passage in which Assyria is described in this way: … Assyria, the rod of my anger, in whose hand is the club of my wrath! I send him against a godless nation, I dispatch him against a people who anger me, to seize loot and snatch plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets (Isaiah 10:5-6).

Here, then, is a deeper meaning of the sign of Jonah: if Israel will not repent, then God will take their power and strength and give it to a foreign land that knows Him not. These foreigners will shame and humiliate Israel, inflicting God’s punishment on them.

This is humiliating to Israel on two levels. First, a pagan country would repent while God’s own people would not. Second, they are conquered by a foreign and unbelieving people. The destruction by Assyria was a devastating blow to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and resulted in the loss of the ten tribes living there. They became the “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.” Only Judah and the Levites were left in the South as a remnant.

Let’s apply this understanding of the sign of Jonah, first to Jesus’ time and then to our own.

  1. In Jesus’ time the sign of Jonah meant that if Israel would not repent and accept the Gospel, God would take it from them and give it to the Gentiles. Jesus says elsewhere to his fellow Jews, Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit (Matt 21:43). Just as ancient Israel’s refusal to repent led to its destruction by the Assyrians, so Israel’s refusal to repent in Jesus’ time would mean destruction by the Romans (in 70 A.D.). This was prophesied by Jesus in the Mount Olivet discourse (Matthew 24:1 – 25:46, Mark 13:1-37, and Luke 21:5-36). According to Josephus, more than a million Jews were lost in this horrible war.
  2. In our time, I suggest that the sign of Jonah may be active. I know that this may be controversial, but it seems to me that many Christians and Catholics in the decadent West have stopped loving life. Birth rates have dropped dramatically and are well below replacement level. We are on our way to aborting and contracepting ourselves right out of existence. God has loosed judgment on us in the form of the sign of Jonah. He seems to be saying this to us: “Fine, if you do not love life and are not zealous for the faith I have given you, then disaster is upon you. Others still do appreciate larger families and are zealous for their faith. And even if, like the Assyrians of old, they are not my people as you are, I will use them to humble and punish you. They will grow and increase while you decrease. Perhaps when you are punished by a people who do not respect your religious liberty, you who remain will repent and begin to love life.”

In the European Union today, the birth rate is about 1.6 children per woman. Globally, Muslim women average 3.1 children. Do the math and realize that Europe as we have known it is coming to an end. In the United States the birth rate is higher, but still only about 1.9 children per woman. In general, the Catholic world is in decline, both in terms of our birth rates and our zeal for the faith. We are surely being diminished by our culture of death and decadent sloth.

Is it the sign of Jonah? You decide.

16 Replies to “What Is the Sign of Jonah and Has It Come Upon Us?”

  1. The entire story of the Bible is a blue print for human history. How many times did the sign of Jonas appear in the last 2000 years? I lost count. I don’t doubt for a minute that the answer to the question is “yes”. In the past, there was still enough faith in the world that prevented total annihilation of our culture but will there be enough this time?

  2. Msgr. Pope,

    It seems like every day I find myself trying to find some way to convince myself that our nation can come to repentance. But the sad truth is that Protestantism (including Evangelicalism and cafeteria-Catholicism) is indeed aborting and contracepting itself into oblivion. The children that this culture did have have rejected God in favor of a life of dissipation. All of us (except Jesus and Mary) are prodigal sons and daughters, and we know that no one is beyond God’s mercy. But it seems that no amount of argument or apologetics can fill the void in the hearts of the millennial and post-millennial generation who have grown up without the love of the family.

    I do think that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the key to turning things around, as She always has been throughout the history of the Church. The millennial crowd has made up their mind about the fake “Jesus” that the evangelical/fundamental and liberal/progressive crowds have each created. But have they ever experienced the love of Mary, Who alone reflects the love of the true Christ? The Christ Who is unchangeable perfect Love?

    For decades the Catholic Church has hidden Mary away from fear of offending Protestants. As you have noted, at this rate, there will soon be no Protestants left to offend. Isn’t it time then for a “Marian Option?” For the return of the childlike faith of our grandparents? For the restoration of the family and the living of Christ’s Beatitudes? For the rebuilding of the Americas under Our Lady of Guadalupe as their Empress?

    With Mary’s help we can rebuild, and we must begin with our families, by welcoming the gift of life and children no matter the cost. And we must do the same for the immigrants who continue to pour into the United States in search of a better life. The Church must be there to welcome them and provide for them when no one else will, and to catechize and evangelize the children as requested by Our Lady of Good Help in 1859. If we fulfill Her request to educate the children of this wild country, we can rebuild our nation and return it to Jesus through Mary.

    1. Amen, brother!

      The return to a “childlike faith of our grandparents” is the only way this will turn around. For decades now, I have heard how that type of faith is inferior to the more mature way of thinking via an “informed conscience” for each individual. The problem is that most of us do not properly inform our conscience before we make decisions on how and what to believe in. We base it strictly on our personal feelings. This, of course, has led to the dictatorship of relativism as described by Pope Benedict XVI.

      Funny how the pews were filled each Sunday and Holy Day too when our poor, childish grandparents were worshipping and now the tumbleweeds blow. It wasn’t all fear-based attendance as the critics like to say. I’m old enough to be conscious of the before and after. These people had faith in the Faith, not solely in themselves.

  3. I can see in the math that the future of Europe belongs to Islam. But Islam represents the kingdom of Satan and the love of death, even the victory of Satan which is prevented from being final only by the Last Judgement.

  4. Excellent food for thought. A very sobering analysis.

    Two comments:

    1> Although we often think of ourselves as God’s chosen people and recent history somewhat corroborates this, I see nothing in scripture to support it. so this is one point that makes the analogy different.
    2> However, on the second hand, although birth rates are falling and the culture of death reigns in Western Europe and the US, this is not (yet) the case in Catholic areas in the third world. There, they still (mostly) believe in the culture of life and there the birth rates are still higher. So this one supports the analogy.

    Maybe the Catholics in the third world are to be the remnant and we, the tribes that will be lost…

  5. For the sign of Jonah then, the sign of JESUS today is, yes, REPENT (in big bold letters and they are eagerly shouting unto us) for we know not the day or the hour of reckoning but we know the signs of the times. We have become lazy and indolent, too relaxed, complacent and indifferent to our faith. We have failed as a generation in handing down the greatest three commandments of JESUS. First – To love one another as HE love us. Second – Do this in memory of ME, the Holy MASS. LAST – Go, therefore, to all nations baptize them in the name of The FATHER, of The SON and of The HOLY SPIRIT and teach them my Commandments. There are more Muslims than Christians (Catholics, for that matter) now worldwide. Probably GOD is allowing this to bring forth a flowering of deeper faith, sacrificial faith, ready-to-die-for faith, for the blood of the martyrs of which will be the new seed of a renewed productive Church. Barukh atah ADONAI ELOHEINU melekh ha-olam

  6. What a brilliant mind! Much to think about here and study about – and act on. In reply to your question; nothing feels right at this point in time. As you pointed out, we are certainly heading in the wrong direction at the cost of lives and the dark forces seem to be in the drivers seat. God has to be pretty sick of this nation and we inhabitants. Tell me, how can I make a difference. I am a widow, in my seventies, you have pointed to the problem now point me in a direction that will matter. Please.. Thank you, Monsignor, for all you do for those who read your most important blogs.

  7. I believe the sign of Jonah has come upon us. Check out: “Our Lady of All Peoples” and pray the prayer she has obliged us.

    “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father,
    send now your Spirit over the earth.
    Let the Holy Spirit live
    in the hearts of all peoples,
    that they may be preserved
    from corruption, disaster
    and war.
    May the Lady of All Peoples,
    who once was Mary,
    be our Advocate. Amen.”

  8. The question is, are we willing to be Jonah?

    Jonah was a reluctant prophet but he repented and proclaimed the word of the Lord “Repent or Perish”

    Our sin in the West is worship self and ungodly materialism. Contraception, abortion are but symptoms for our sin. Our sin is that we have forgotten that Christ has died, Christ is Risen, and Christ will come again. We owe Him our submission and surrender. Then we will see the power of the Holy Spirit that He has given us in Baptism and confirmation turning thins round for the Glory of the father.
    You and I are Jonah today. Let us proclaim it: “Repent or Perish”. Stop placing the balme on others, let us take responsivity “Repent or Perish

  9. You misunderstand the Lord. God promised to universalize Israel, gathering all the nations or gentiles into His Temple and purging His People of evil leaders and of obsolete rites in light of the Redemption, via His Messiah; this He even made clear through the Prophet Jeremiah, explaining that He would never again divorce Israel, but would grant her a new and everlasting covenant along with a new and everlasting kingdom in a new and everlasting king and redeemer, who would be the messiah and savior par excellence.

    And so, when Christ says the kingdom will be taken away and given to others, He means precisely what God promised: the evil leaders of Israel (pharisees, judges, etc.) would lose their offices and humble, poor people (Apostles) would take their place as God universalizes Israel, purges it of obsolete rites, and all this through the Mystery of Christ, in Whose Blood we have a new and everlasting covenant and kingdom, king and redeemer.

    Jesus could not mean Israel was losing its covenant or kingdom, for such is incompatible with the Jewish faith that Christ practiced and for such would make God a liar; indeed, the Church teaches that the covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, etc. have never been revoked and will never be revoked until the Second Coming, because God loves His People and because Christ is the New and Everlasting Covenant via His Hypostatic Union as the awaited God-Hero, Father Forever, Prince of Peace, etc.

  10. Monsignor Pope: I believe you summed it all up in the phrase, “He seems to be saying this to us: “Fine, if you do not love life and are not zealous for the faith I have given you, then disaster is upon you.”” How many people in the pews appear to be zealous for the faith, both as verb and a noun?
    As a verb, “faith” is the acceptance, the believing in, Jesus as the Son of God, believing in His Name. As a noun, “faith” are all the details, all the truths that God wants everyone to know and believe.
    2 Thes. 2:10 says, “God will give them a deceiving spirit because they have not accepted the love of truth so that they may be saved.” If we accept the love of “truth”, do we not honestly, diligently, our whole lives, seek all the truths that God wants everyone to know and believe? Can we ever stop seeking to know all those truths and still honestly claim to still be loving the truth? If we implicitly say by our actions that we are too busy to continue seeking all the truths that God wants us (and everyone else) to know, are we not then turning our backs on God and His will?
    No, God does not intend for us all to obtain doctorates of theology, but He does want us to accept the love of truth so that we may be saved and to demonstrate this by joyfully seeking, all of our lives, to know more and more of the truths that God wants everyone to know.
    “Faith (as a noun and as a verb) leads to understanding, and as we grow in understanding, our faith grows also and as our faith grows, we understand more and more…..”
    Complacency, sloth are both steps on a “slippery slope” that the devil wants all to take so as to end up presuming against the Holy Spirit. Complacency about our faith (verb and noun) takes hold of us when we say we are too busy to open the Bible and Catechism of the Catholic Faith so as to learn more. We may say we believe everything in the Bible and the Catechism, but our refusal to open them regularly is evidence of the beginnings of presumption.
    For Catholic priests and ministers of other Christian faiths, there is a terrible burden to do all they can to instill the acceptance of the love of Truth in those who have been handed into their care by God.May God have mercy on those ministers who are complacent about their charges who are complacent about the acceptance of the true love of all the truths that God wants everyone to know and believe and most importantly, seeking with their whole heart.
    Just as children have a tendency to follow in the example of the footsteps of their parents and if the parents are complacent about seeking all the truths that God wants everyone to know and believe, so will the children be; parents have a tendency to follow the lead of the minister, and woe unto him, or her, if they demonstrate a complacency towards seeking all the truths that God wants all to know, believe, seek.

  11. ~The Lord gave “The Sign of Jonah” (REPENT; Matthew 12:38-41) on 5/12/16= 33, His age is confirmation in the date. This sign was overlooked and I was surprised by my day of living water, with each event of the sign being revealed and the PROFOUND way our Lord uses numbers and dates. NOW, we can be “caught up” any time (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
    ~Today is 150 days of “The Sign of Jonah” and Yom Kippur (REPENT). (People had to be given the sign to have a chance, before they are left behind.) Since then, radio and television sermons have mentioned repentance, Jonah and Nineveh. The Lord led me to churches, people, places and online posting. (Jeremiah 51:13 Revelation 17:1,15; Ezekiel 1:1 Revelation 4:1; Zechariah 4:2 Revelation 1:12; 1 Corinthians 1:4-9)
    ~The Lord be with you.

  12. ~In addition to receiving “The Sign of Jonah” (Matt 12:38-41) “A Call to Repentance”(Isaiah 1) “The Coming Messiah”(Micah 5:1,2) “Nineveh’s Coming Destruction”(Nahum). All from the Holy Bible NKJV.
    ~Several times daily, Ezekiel 38-39, 33:1-5, Matthew 24:33,34 and our world looks like Jesus said in Matthew 24. Today, Psalm 89:27, Zechariah 4 with references to Revelation 1:12,4:5,11:3,4; “The Mystery Revealed” Colossians 1 and I heard the Lord say, “Beginning and the End” Revelation 1:8. Ezekiel 1:1 with reference to Revelation 4:1 many pastors say we go to the Lord and Heaven. Now, “The Great Commandment” Matthew 22:37-40= 99/3= 33, His age 3 times in this scripture; PROFOUND. It would be nice to share all of His miracles in my life, besides these scriptures and more of them, but time and space is limited.
    ~The Lord be with you.

  13. *Please look at the time of my last post, 17:33, His age, 33, is in my post/ comment!
    ~The Lord opens the Bible to Jeremiah 51:13, “O you who dwell by many waters, Abundant in treasures, Your end has come, The measure of your covetousness.” At the top of the page “Vengeance on Babylon”. Are we, the United States, Babylon? Many say we are. The disasters here are horrific and getting worse (“These are the last days.” Jesus 6/15/2013). Now, He gives me Psalm 118:22,26 “…Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!…”.
    ~With this, “The Sign of Jonah” (Matthew 12:38-41) given 150 days ago, 5/12/16= 33, is perfect timing. Even seeing the number 33 in world events: 33 terrorist tunnels from Gaza into Israel, earthquake on Ascension Island at depth: 33.98 km, Campbell’s has 33 new soups, the two U.S. doctors with Ebola were 33 years old, The 33- movie, 33 Men Buried- book, the El Faro sunk with 33 crewmen and more.

    From Prophecies of Ven. Elena Aiello
    Our Blessed Mother speaks: “The world today is honoring me, but my Motherly Heart is bleeding, because the enemy is at our doors! Men are offending God too much! If I were to show you the number of sins committed in a single day, you would die of horror and sorrow! The sins that distress God the most, are those of the souls who should perfume the air with the fragrance of their virtues. Instead, they contaminate (by their sinful lives) those who come near them.”

    “The times are grievous. The whole world is in turmoil, because IT HAS BECOME WORSE THAN AT THE TIME OF THE DELUGE!”
    “Everything is in suspense, like a thread; when this thread breaks, the justice of God will fall like a thunderbolt and will complete its terrible course of purification.”
    Sister Elena asked, “What will become of Italy?”
    The Virgin Mary answered: “Italy, my daughter, will be humiliated, purified in blood, and must suffer much, because many are the sins of this beloved country, seat of the Vicar of Christ. You cannot imagine what will happen! In those sad days there will be much anguish and weeping. There will be a great revolution, and streets will be red with blood.”

    “The Pope will suffer much, and all this suffering will be like an agony, which will shorten his earthly pilgrimage. His successor will guide the boat in the tempest.”

    “However the punishment of the impious will not be delayed. That day will be most fearful in the world! The earth will tremble, all humanity will be shaken! The wicked and the obstinate will perish in the tremendous severity of the justice of the Lord.”
    “Launch at once a message into the world, to advise men to return to God by prayers and penances, and to come with confidence to my Immaculate Heart. My power must be shown, because I am the Mother of God, of the just, and of sinners. Through prayer and penance, my mercy will be able to hold back the hand of God’s justice.”
    Below from Gladys Herminia Quiroga de Motta, San Nicolàs de los Arroyos 199?
    Many are the children who know and venerate the Mother. Many more are those that do not know her. Today it is time to listen to her and to know her because the one that despises her despises Christ and is hurting himself. Nobody has doubts, love does not have misfortune. The one that loves Christ also loves His Mother. Praised be the Lord. That all may know my message.
    I am the anchor, I have anchored here. I am the coffer that wants to take the children to the Lord.
    At the present time, all mankind is pending by a thread. If that thread is broken, many will be those that do not have salvation, for that reason I call you to the reflection, hurry up that we are running out of time, there will be no place for late comers. The Lord wants all to enjoy His kingdom. To those that are remote, I say to them: approach, Jesus Christ is within reach of your hand.
    The coming of the Lord is imminent, and as they say in the Scriptures nobody knows the day nor the hour, but it will be; and certainly for that hour the soul of the Christian must be prepared. Even the stones will know of Him.

Comments are closed.