It is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and the other by a free woman. One, the child of the slave, was born according to the flesh; the other, the child of the free woman, was born through the promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One woman, in fact, is Hagar, from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery.
But the other woman corresponds to the Jerusalem above; she is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, "Rejoice, you childless one, you who bear no children, burst into song and shout, you who endure no birth-pangs; for the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than the children of the one who is married."
So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Praise, O servants of the Lord,
praise the name of the Lord!
May the name of the Lord be blessed
both now and for evermore! (R./)
From the rising of the sun to its setting
praised be the name of the Lord!
High above all nations is the Lord,
above the heavens his glory. (R./)
Who is like the Lord, our God,
who stoops from the heights to look down,
to look down upon heaven and earth?
From the dust he lifts up the lowly,
from the dungheap he raises the poor. (R./)
When the crowds were increasing, Jesus began to say, "This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! 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!
Some people who are unaware of Christ may display an honesty and generosity beyond many of the faithful. The gospel gives examples of this. When it reports Jesus comparing gentiles with his fellow-Jews, the message was intended for Christian readers. The queen of the South who came to hear the wisdom of Solomon represents the opennes of Africa to the Word of God. Even the dreaded Ninevites who had destroyed northern Israel were open to conversion by the obstinate Jonah. Jesus was a far greater presence than Solomon and Jonah. With so little background the pagans welcomed faith. It is a sober lesson for lifelong Christians.
It Galatians, Saint Paul introduces the famous opposition between the two covenants. God's ways are not our ways. The reasoning in Galatians is in a style strange for us. Paul, who knew his Bible so well, turns history on its head, with Rabbinical subtlety. He links the resistant Jews to Abraham's first son Ishmael, son of Hagar, while believers in Christ are linked to Isaac, the true-born son, born of Sarah. Within us, he seems to say, are two conflicting forces. We are born of the flesh in childbirth, and born of the spirit through grace. Our rebirth through the Spirit is what leads to eternal life. Our "fleshly" aspect is doomed to die; our "spiritual" side is destined for eternal life.
When people came to Jesus looking for a sign he said the signs were in plain view if only they could see them. His own message and lifestyle was all the sign they needed, to open their hearts to God.
The people of Nineveh took Jonah more seriously than Jesus' hearers were taking him, yet he was a more powerful sign of God's presence than Jonah. Something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of Sheba listened to Solomon more attentively than Jesus' hearers did to him, but Jesus could teach them more than Solomon could.
In looking for the extraordinary, we can miss the divine presence in ordinary things. Jesus seemed ordinary to his neighbours. 'Is not this the son of the carpenter? When he spoke about God's kingdom, he did so in simple terms, like the sower going out to sow or the man who was robbed on the road Jericho, or the weeds that grow among the field of wheat. He said that signs of God's presence are in the ordinary stuff of life, for those who have eyes to see. Right now we pray for eyes to see the mystery.