MORNING MEDITATION IN THE CHAPEL OF THE
The Jonah Syndrome
Monday, 14 October 2013
(by L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly ed. in English, n.
42, 18 October 2013)
On Monday, 14 October, Pope Francis commented on the liturgical readings of
the day taken from St Paul's Letter to the Romans (1:1-7) and the Gospel of St
Luke, in which the Lord says: “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a
sign but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (11:29-32).
Pope Francis first noted the forcefulness of the Lord's words. He explained,
however, that Jesus was speaking principally to the doctors of the law and to
those who were seeking to put him to the test and demanding proofs.
Before commenting on the sign of Jonah, Pope Francis described what he termed
“the Jonah syndrome”. He explained: “Johan did not want to travel to Nineveh,
and so he fled to Spain. In his mind: the teaching is this, you have to believe
this. If they are sinners, they can sort it out for themselves; I have nothing
to do with it!”.
“This is the Jonah syndrome,” he said, “and Jesus condemns it. For example,
in chapter 23 of Matthew's Gospel those who have this syndrome are called
hypocrites. They do not want the poor to be saved”. He continued: “The Jonah
syndrome afflicts those without zeal for the conversion of others; what they are
looking for is a holiness, if I may say, a holiness they can pick up at the
dry-cleaners. It is clean and pressed but wholly lacking in the zeal that leads
us to preach and proclaim the Lord”.
Pope Francis then contrasted this with the sign of Jonah: “In St Matthew's
version, we read that Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and
three nights. This refers to Jesus in the tomb, to his death and resurrection.
This is the sign that Jesus promises: against hypocrisy, against the attitude of
perfect religiosity, against the attitude of the Pharisees”.
“The sign which Jesus promises,” the Pope said, “is his forgiveness, through
his death and resurrection”. Therefore, “the true sign of Jonah is the one that
gives us confidence in being saved by the blood of Christ". He continued: "There
are many Christians who think they are saved on the basis of what they do, on
the basis of their works. Works are necessary, but they are a consequence, a
response to the merciful love that saves us”.
“The Jonah syndrome afflicts those who trust only in their personal
righteousness, in their works,” the Pope explained. It is a grave illness, while
the sign of Jonah is the mercy of God in Jesus Crucified and Risen for us, for
Today's liturgy, the Pope concluded, puts the decision before us: “Do we want
to follow the syndrome or the sign of Jonah?”.