Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Sign of Jonah

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

The Sign of Jonah

Article excerpt

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Thomas Merton wrote in his early journals that the "sign of Jonas"--the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection--is "burned into the roots of our being." Sooner or later, everyone faces the universal truth that only through death to self do we find life. Merton embraced this sign and described himself as one like Jonah, because "I find myself traveling toward my destiny in the belly of a paradox."

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Lent is upon us, and for Christians, accepting ashes in the form of a cross on our foreheads is one way we publicly wear this paradox, the sign of the cross, the sign of Jonah. If we look around, we might see many others sporting some form of sackcloth and ashes. These are other names for the effects of the global recession that is radiating outward from the implosion of the global financial markets, the paralysis of the banking system, and the sober, sinking feeling that government cannot, as yet, stop these seemingly out-of-control processes. It is likely to be a long, hard road ahead for everyone.

We are entering a crucial test of the resilience of all our social and civil contracts. For many people in the developed world, affluence that had become an extended Fat Tuesday is now a protracted Ash Wednesday they must newly share with the longsuffering developing world.

This crisis is touching us all, our jobs, our savings and our personal plans. It is also reminding us to grasp just how fragile and interdependent we are. There will be no going back to the way things were. …

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