In today’s gospel passage from Matthew, Jesus talks about the “Queen of the South” condemning the men of his generation. Those who were listening to Jesus certainly understood who she was, but we probably do not. She was the queen of Ethiopa or Yemen. Whichever she was, she was most likely not the lily white figure that we see in the painting above.
The queen of the south, who was also known as the Queen of Sheba, travelled from her country in order to learn from King Solomon, as chronicled in the Book of Kings. She was taken with the wisdom of Solomon and her encounter with him and her experience of God completely changed her life.
Jesus refers to her in the gospel passage in order to illustrate the point that, despite being originally pagan in belief and Gentile in race, the Queen of Sheba recognized the truth and reality of God, unlike the religious leaders who opposed Jesus. As such, they would be condemned for their ignorant and defiant nature.
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“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.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
Sometimes we get too comfortable with our status as favored sons and daughters of God. We have to remember that our journey is just that … a journey. Until we reach that moment when we see the Lord face to face we have to be aware that we have a long way to go in our faith life. When we can give up our desire to be “advanced” disciples we actually open our hearts to the prompting of Jesus, which in turn helps us to become the disciples that we hope to be. Like the queen of the south, our goal in faith should be journey and discovery.