Hear what the Lord says: 'Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice.' Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.
"O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam."
"With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
'Summon before me my people
who made covenant with me by sacrifice.'
The heavens proclaim his justice,
for he, God, is the judge. (R.)
Revive us now, God, our helper!
Put an end to your grievance against us.
Will you be angry with us for ever,
will your anger never cease? (R.)
Will you not restore again our life
that your people may rejoice in you?
Let us see, O Lord, your mercy
and give us your saving help. (R./)
Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you." But he answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. 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! The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!
In a flash of inspiration, Micah states what God really wants of us. But first he says what God does NOT want: Not holocausts, nor thousands of sacrificial lambs, for none of these externals can replace the personal attitudes of the soul. Then, memorably, he declares what the Lord really require of us: "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God."
With these priorities in his heart, how disappointed Jesus felt when some were interested only in his miracles, instead of in his message about our relationship with God. He had shown an ministry of kindness and concern, but these people wanted something more spectacular than the cure of a poor cripple or the blessed wisdom of being poor in spirit or pure of heart. He then reminds them about Jonah and how many Ninevites were converted by his preaching; and about the Queen of the South's admiration for the wisdom of Solomon. These foreigners, even the worst of them, the Ninevites, repented and were converted, "and you have a greater than Solomon here."
Unless we take the risk of being generous towards others, no miracle will prove anything to us. Then too, Jesus points to the sign of Jonah, "three days and three nights in the belly of the whale." We too must risk going the depths and letting ourselves be as it were "swallowed up" by the will of God and taken to wherever God brings us, as happened to Jonah. Then we will experience the sweet reward of faith, after long fidelity.
In the gospel Jesus criticizes the scribes and Pharisees because they want a sign from him over and above all that he has been doing. They want him to do something more spectacular before they will believe in him. There has always been the longing in religiously minded people for the extraordinary sign that leaves no room for doubt. However, that is not how the Lord seems to work. He comes to us in and through the ordinary more than the extraordinary. In response to the request of the scribes and Pharisees Jesus tells them that he is present among them as someone greater than the prophet Jonah, greater than the wise king Solomon, if only they had eyes to see and ears to hear. In looking for a sign from Jesus they show that they don't appreciate what they already have. In looking for the unusual we can miss what is before us. The Lord is among us today as someone greater than Jonah, greater than Solomon, greater than all the prophets and wise men of Israel. He is among us as one who is full of grace and truth in the words of the Prologue to John's gospel. The Lord has not sold us short; we already have all we need to know and love him and to grow in our relationship with him. What is required is that we appreciate what the Lord has already given to us.