Often, when we ask for a sign, we have a preconceived notion of what we are seeking and we want God’s stamp of approval on it. The impetus is coming from us, seeking to bend the will of God to our will. More often this approach will end in frustration. The Pharisees in today’s account are asking for a sign. Jesus has already been preaching with authority, healing, casting out unclean spirits and demons, encountering the unclean and restoring them to the community and right worship, and this is not enough?
We can understand how: 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” (Mk 8:12). The majority of the Pharisee’s minds were set. Jesus knew there was nothing he could say or do to prove to them he was who he said he was; the kingdom of God at hand. If they had not the eyes to see and the ears to hear there was no argument, point, or sign that would have changed their minds. Jesus sighed from the depths of his spirit because their hearts were hardened such that they closed themselves off from the gift of the grace he sought to share. So he then got into the boat to go to the other shore, to share his message with others: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15).
The question for us today is, do we believe, do we really believe, that Jesus is who he says he is; do we believe that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6)? Do we seek to bend God’s will to our own will or seek to align our will with his? The woman with the hemorrhage for twelve years, the woman whose daughter was possessed, the friends with the man with the withered hand, and the leper, did not ask for a sign, they asked for a healing. They trusted, believed, and risked getting closer to Jesus so as to encounter him despite the barriers in place to prevent them. In each of these cases, Jesus recognized their faith and each received the healing they sought.
In our discernment, we need to be aware of our intent. There is a subtle distinction, but it is important. Are we seeking proof, a sign, or are we placing ourselves in a posture of believing and seeking to understand God’s will, as Mary did when she asked, “How can this be” (Lk 1:34)? Are we demanding proof, a three-point plan from God before we follow his lead, or do we trust his invitation, and seek to understand how he wants us to act, knowing that he will reveal what we need to do each step of the way? Often times, if we knew the end result and full ramifications of his original request, our doubt would crush our spirit before we even started.
Let us embrace a posture of faith seeking understanding today, trust in Jesus, and seek to align our will with God our Father. May we make time to be still and enter a place of prayer and to open our hearts and minds to the leading of the Holy Spirit. May we with confidence, say in the words of Mary, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38), then arise to grasp the hand of her Son, Jesus, and face head-on that which is before us, to accomplish what he calls us to do, knowing that with Jesus, we can overcome any obstacle that is placed before us.
Photo: Fertoledo – “Rostro de Christo” Face of Christ – from cathopic.com