10 Oct, Monday of Week 28
Rom 1:1ff. Paul is to proclaim to gentiles the good news of Jesus, descended from David but recognised as Son of God by the resurrection.
Lk 11:29ff. The people of Nineveh and the queen of Sheba will blame Jesus’ generation for not recognising the privelege of his presence among them.
Last to First
Some people with little or no knowledge of Jesus manifest a gentleness, honesty and generosity which puts to shame many Christian believers. The gospel gives us excellent examples of this. While, of course, Jesus was comparing the gentiles with his Jewish compatriots, the story was written for Christian communities. The queen of the south represents Africa, long known in the Bible through references to Kush or Ethiopia. This distant land was impenetrable and forbidding to Israelites who feared the open sea and only rarely constructed a fleet of ships, possibly under Solomon (1 Kings 9:26-29) and another futile attempt under Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 22:49). Ethiopia came to Solomon in the person of the queen of the south (1 Kings 10:1-13). The Ninevites were the hated Assyrians, who destroyed the ten northern tribes (2 Kings 17) and even scorched Judah with widespread destruction (2 Kings 19). These people, among the crudest in biblical history, could be converted by the obstinate and stubborn Jonah. Yet, a greate than Solomon and Jonah was present in Jesus. With so little these pagans accomplished so much. We who see and hear what “kings and prophets desired to see” (Matthew 13:17), we with so much accomplish so little!
Each of us, St Paul seems to say, contains in ourselves not one but two births. We are born of the flesh in the natural order, and born of the spirit in the supernatural order. The first follows a law that is irreversible – conception, birth, life in the flesh. Paul compares this to Judaism with its multiple laws for each moment of human existence. Our second birth through the Spirit far surpasses our fleshly human ability and potency, and it leads to eternal life. Flesh is doomed to die; spirit is promised eternal life. The spirit co-exists with our human, fleshly self and liberates us from its slavery to death.
This double birth is modelled in Jesus, according to Paul’s opening words to the Romans . Jesus was descended from David “according to the flesh” but was made Son of God in power, “by his resurrection from the dead.” Salvation comes through the Spirit, not only in Jesus’ case but even throughout the Old Testament when children of the promise, like Isaac or Samuel, were conceived miraculously. Jerusalem was revived after the exile when all seemed lost, by the enduring love of the Lord (Isa 54:8). Jesus was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit. His flesh was transformed into an instrument of eternal joy for Jesus and through him for each of us.
The impulse of the Spirit exists with all men and women throughout the world. We too have the benefit of the Scriptures, the sacred liturgy and a long tradition of saints. All of us can remember wonderful moments in our own lives when the Holy Spirit brought us the fruits of love, joy and peace. We are able to anticipate eternal life and its joy here on earth, for the Spirit of Jesus, greater than Solomon or Jonah, dwells within the fleshly temple of our bodies.
First Reading: Romans 1:1-7
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Gospel: Luke 11:29-32
When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!