Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday, the Eighth Day of Lent: Clothed in Justice

Our Gospel today recalls Jesus challenging a crowd who had gathered around him:

This generation is an evil generation;
 it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, 
so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 

What is this "sign of Jonah"? Well, in the first reading, we are told: Jonah is given a message by the Lord. Upon his arrival to the great city of Nineveh, he delivers the message given to him, "Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed." 

Imagine how daunting this must have seemed. Jonah is summoned to deliver a message to a bustling metropolis. The text does not say so, but I suspect something like this crossed his mind, "What the Hell am I supposed to do? I am one guy and this place is damn big. How am I going to get any traction here? Where do I start? Why would anyone listen to me???" 

Nevertheless, listen the Ninevites did. They repented of their wickedness and no less than the king declared a fast that all dwelling in Nineveh would observe: 
Neither man or beast, neither cattle nor sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; every man shall turn from his evil way and from the violence he has in hand. Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath, so that we shall not perish. 
Jonah is a sign of contradiction: much to what must have been his own doubts, the power of God's word is able to transform the hearts of those who hear it. Their conversion of heart and their repenting of their wicked ways, saves them from God's judgment.

It is easy to be cynical about this generation of young adults, too. Yet I look within the halls of U of D Jesuit and I see a true sign of contradiction: our Just Peace student organization. This brave group of students have worked assiduously this year to make our institution Sweat-Free. Algimantis Janusis ('12) approached me last semester and convinced me that the Student Senate needed to make a switch to using Sweat-Free t-shirts. These students have taken a prophetic stance within U of D Jesuit, challenging our school community to be Men for Others by clothing ourselves, quite literally, in justice.

The students have recently begun a blog discussing their initiative. Each of these students should be commended for their excellent work. From Theo's beautifully trenchant commentary to Nick's discussion of "Clothing with a Conscience," Kiernan's discussion of Charles Kernaghan to Mitch's digest of Catholic Social Teaching, it is refreshing to hear the voice of those willing to raise a protest against injustice.

I strongly urge my readers to visit the students' No Sweat Gazette and support them in their endeavor. Rather than succumbing to the status quo and throwing their hands up at the enormity of the situation - something that must have tempted Jonah, too - these young men are working hard to change hearts and minds, recalling for all of us the dignity of the human person and the duty we have to all of our sisters and brothers to work for justice.
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