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Summary: Jesus’s preaching differed from that of Jonah because Jonah prophesied judgement and vengeance, while Jesus embodied God’s unremitting love.

Monday of 16th Week in Course

20 July 2009

Caritas in Veritate

Before continuing a commentary on the papal encyclical Love in Truth, let me spend a moment on this analogy to Jonah. Jesus is saying to these Jewish non-believers, in effect, “Jonah eventually got it, and you guys will never get it.” The actual circumstances of Jonah’s fishing trip are not important, but it really confuses some Bible readers when they see three days and three nights. After all, if Jesus had the last supper on Thursday, was condemned and died on Friday, and rose on Sunday, then he had only Friday and Saturday nights in the ground.

Only Christian Tradition gives us the answer to this apparent Scripture problem. If you get your feet on the ground in the Holy Land, and retrace Jesus’s steps after the Agony in the Garden, you come to the Church of Gallicantu, built over the site of Caiaphas’ palace. There you can go down into the old cistern that became the high priest’s holding cell. It’s pitch dark there in the belly of the earth. That’s where Jesus spent most of Thursday night. So he was three days–Friday, Saturday, and part of Easter after midnight, and three nights, in the earth.

How is the preaching of Jesus different from the preaching of Jonah? After all, something greater than Jonah was present in the humanity of Jesus. Jonah preached repentance; so did Jesus. But Jonah was the prophet of God’s judgement and vengeance on sin. Jesus was the embodiment of God’s unremitting love for mankind. Jesus’s Church, then, which is entrusted with continuing the mission of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, must also be the sign, the embodiment of that loving mercy. The Pope tells us that “For the Church, instructed by the Gospel, charity is everything because, as Saint John teaches (cf. 1 Jn 4:8, 16) and as I recalled in my first Encyclical Letter, ‘God is love’. . .: everything has its origin in God’s love, everything is shaped by it, everything is directed towards it. Love is God’s greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope.”

Love must be both the principle of our micro-relationships with friends, family members, but of the macro-relationships between groups, states, the whole world. What a calling we have! This must be the basis of our understanding of human development and our work for justice.

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