The most popular scene in early Christian art is Jonah reclining naked under a gourd. Rarely, do the early Christians picture Jonah preaching ( Narkiss, Bezalel. “The Sign of Jonah.” Gesta 18, no. 1 (1979): 63-76. doi:10.2307/766792.) Even though Jonah’s obedience produces wildly successful results, the early Christian painters emphasized not the revival but his shame (cf. Jonah 4). The early Church was highlighting this spiritual principle: “whenever someone rejects God’s plan, sin naturally follows”.
The rejection of God’s plan is the “sign of Jonah” Jesus said, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah?” Most commentators see Jesus’ three days in the tomb as the sign and a warning to Jesus’ audience of the impending doom if they refuse Jesus’ message.
The Sign of Jonah is what happens to leaders and a nation who abandon their vows. In the Old Testament, God uses the violent Assyrians to run roughshod over the Jews (cf. Habbakuk). The object of God’s wrath become the rod of His wrath. Jesus foresaw the horrific future of the Jews and its famed Herodic temple (cf. Matthew 24:1-25:46).
Monsignor Pope believes the sign of Jonah is still active. He writes: “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.”
The solution to the sign of Jonah is the sign of contradiction
What is the solution to the sign of Jonah? We have a generation of spiritual leaders who have broke their vows and all the world see their shame. We need a generation of leaders intent in becoming a sign of contradiction like Jesus and the holy martyrs of the Church. Instead of suffering because of sin (cf. I Peter), we need leaders who suffer because of their holiness. Simeon, when blessing Joseph, Mary and Jesus prophesied to Mary: “Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted.” Holiness divides the family and the nation. Jesus promised, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. ”
What do you do if you live in the midst of corruption, violence and lies or when Christian leaders fall? Don’t give up, look for the sign of contradiction or better, BE ONE!