"There is something greater than Jonah here" (Luke 11:32).
Sometimes the Good News comes to us as an urgent warning and a call to respond.
Jesus tells the gathered crowds that "this generation is an evil generation because it seeks a sign, and no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah."
That sign was Jonah's preaching. He went to Nineveh, the great enemy of Israel, and preached repentance, and to his amazement those evil pagans responded and were spared destruction.
But when Jesus came offering God's gracious mercy to his own people, the "Chosen People of God," they rejected him. Therefore, Jesus tells the crowds, on the day of judgment the Queen of the South, who came from afar to hear Solomon's wisdom, will condemn them. They have had the benefit of Jesus' preaching, and he is even greater than Jonah and wiser than Solomon, but they would not listen.
Jesus' reminder that outsiders were more open to God than they were surely stung those who grasped his meaning. When he said much the same thing at Nazareth -- that God had worked miracles for Naaman the Syrian and the widow of Zarephtha but not them -- the crowd rose up and tried to throw him over a cliff. Jesus was clearly about his mission to preach even in the face of rejection.
One of the great questions about mercy is this: what happens when people simply turn their backs on the offer? The freedom to say yes to God is balanced by our freedom to say no. We decide and, in the end, we judge ourselves. There are consequences for our decisions, for both nations and for individuals, and even God's unconditional love cannot save us if we do not want to be saved.
Like Jesus, the bright figure of Pope Francis also casts an urgent, prophetic shadow over the decisions we must make regarding climate change, economic disparity, global conflict and the fate of millions of refugees and immigrants. These are the decisions facing this generation, and if we do not address them, even greater disasters loom, all the more tragic because we knew but did not act.