Why does this generation seek a sign?

December 2, 2014

Dear brothers and sisters,

The good news today is given to us in Mark 8:10-13.

He dismissed them and got into the boat with his disciples and came to the region of Dalmanutha. The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore.

I sigh every once in a while, not often. I did this past week. It does come from the very depth of me like it did from Jesus. It’s like no words can express the depth of my feeling or rather a mingle of feelings that can’t be identified by one label. Last week it was longing, love, disappointment, patient surrender. I can imagine Jesus being filled with a mix of emotions about his opponents — exasperation, bewilderment, hopelessness but also hope because he knew God’s love was lavished upon them as much as anyone.

I think Jesus was exasperated because the Pharisees missed the point. They wanted a sign of God’s power, a sign that God was working through Jesus. But Jesus wasn’t about power; in fact, he was all about the exact opposite. He was all about trying to convince people of God’s love, of God’s compassion, of God’s tender mercy. I’m sure Jesus asked himself of the Pharisees, “Are you ever going to get it? Is everything I’ve done and said in vain? Why are you so determined to remain outside of God’s love?” I’m pretty sure he’s asked himself the same thing of me. There have been plenty of times that I have asked for a sign of God’s will or actually His confirmation of my own will and desires. But God’s signs are all around me; I just fail to see them or acknowledge them as signs. I like the way Barclay puts it, “To Jesus the whole world was full of signs; the corn in the field, the leaven in the loaf, the scarlet anemones on the hillside all spoke to him of God. He did not think that God had to break in from outside the world; he knew that God was already in the world for anyone who had eyes to see.”

From time to time I still question whether Jesus was really the Son of God. It seems too good to be true! I want more signs, more proof. I was put in my place the other day when I read something from St. John of the Cross. “By giving us his son, God has spoken to us once and for all and has nothing left to reveal. God has become, as it were, dumb, and has no more to say….Wherefore he that would not enquire of God or seek any visitation or revelation, would only be acting foolishly but would be committing an offense against God, by not setting his eyes altogether upon Christ and seeking not new thing or aught beside. And God might answer him after this manner, saying: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whim I am well-pleased. Hear ye him. If I have spoken all things to you in my Word, which is my Son, and I have no other Word, what answer can I know make to you, or what can I reveal to you which is greater than this? Set your eyes on him alone; in him I have spoken and revealed to you all things; and in him you shall find yet more than that which you ask or desire.’”

That’s why I keep reading and reflecting upon the gospels. Everything I need to know about God and His love for me, for all of us, is right there. Jesus is His Word enfleshed. He wanted to make sure He was understood — once and for all.



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