In today’s Gospel, we are told that Jesus said this to the crowd: ” This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” I will not attempt at exegetical work here, but I want to highlight the significance behind this statement.
First, we live in a world that often values comfort at the expense of truth and virtue. What I mean here is that we often overlook or glamorize wrongs so that we won’t have to deal with the uncomfortable part of telling someone we love or care for that they are doing something wrong. This attitude, of course, extends from personal relationships to societal relationships. Instead of pointing out the wrong, we embrace our loved ones’ wrong-doings as their personal choices and that they are the only ones affected by them. And they in return buy into our embraces and are convinced that they are the only ones affected by their choices. And because choices no longer affect others but only ourselves, no choice is ever wrong per se, only different.
Second, we blur the distinction between the actor and the action. The reason why we are scared to tell people that they are wrong is because we are scared that they will think that we think they are bad people. Our fear is not without merit since some of us do not seem able to make the distinction between a bad deed and a bad man–that a good man could perform a bad deed while a bad man good perform a good deed. We must realize that people are not totally defined by their actions, even though their actions are a part of their personal constitution.
Third, we mistakenly call bad things good because we have a serious misunderstanding of what good is. We value the right things according to the “time of season” and we value the wrong things all the time. We value family only when Thanksgiving and Christmas is around; we value our boyfriends, girlfriends, fiances, and spouses only when Valentine’s day is around. Yet, we value material things everyday of the year, e.g. the latest and best cellphones and TVs. We think that obsession with our bodies is a good thing, and that anything less than a six-pack is shameful.
So What Does Jesus Teach Us?
As a student of theology, I’m always so astounded by those who suggest that Jesus was always loving and never said anything mean or offensive to those around him (to be fair, I’m also very astounded by those who seem to suggest that Jesus came to destroy all sinners and spread a message of hatred). As apparent in today’s Gospel, Jesus was not afraid to call a spade its name.
While he is loving, for he is Love Incarnate, he is also, well, loving! What this means is that it is because he loves so deeply that he must point out our wrong-doings so that we may learn to be virtuous. But just because he calls out the wrong does not mean that he ceases to love us. Just because a mother tells her son that she does not like his addictive actions does not mean that she has ceased to love him. The very contrary is true: she loves him all the more because he is broken and needs love to heal.
Additionally, Jesus is keenly aware that our choices are not “just our own”, but that they are made to affect those we love as well as those around us. We are not meant to live alone, such is why we are born into families, establish friendships, fall in love, marry and start families (some of us). Thus, our decisions affect more than just us, they either build or tear down our relationships. If we are to seriously love, we must learn to think about how to build those we love up through our own actions. We must not misconceive the bad for the good; and most importantly, we must learn to call the bad bad and the good good. We must not be afraid to tell those we love that they have done wrong, and they must do the same for us. Finally, we must learn to distinguish between the sinner and the sin; we must love the sinner and hate the sin, not the other way around.