12 May 2008

Here's your sign...

6th Week OT (M): James 1.1-11 and Mark 8.11-13
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Church

Can’t you just imagine how weary Jesus must be at this point, tired of being doubted, tested, wrung through the wringer of having to prove again and again who he really is. His word alone is not enough for most. For some, even his miracles lack the umph that pushes the incredulous over their disbelieving hump. This is not to say that there aren’t perfectly good reasons for believing that Jesus is not who he says he is. His claims are fairly ridiculous, not just odd but downright bizarre. It would take a massive exertion of will to move oneself from disbelieving to believing w/o some sort of external assistance. The Pharisees are again clamoring for signs, bugging Jesus for more and better evidence. They are harassing him not b/c they are committed to the pursuit of truth and seek the truth of his nature; they are testing him in order to find fault so that they might then charge him, arrest him, and execute him. His teachings are too dangerous. Even so, they risk their incredulity by asking for more signs. They risk their critical distance, their practiced cynicism by approaching him and asking him to do that which might confirm their worse fears about him. What if he did something, something spectacular, miraculous, something so bold and beautiful that even the hardest Pharisaical heart is torn open and the truth of his identity and mission pour in? That’s what they risk by asking for a sign. Does any of this sound familiar? How often do we ourselves hold Jesus at arm’s length on the pretense that we don’t really understand fully who he is, but at the same time we’re willing to mull over the possibility that he is who he says he is, but then we recognize what such a revelation would mean for our daily lives, so we demand further proof, more signs, knowing (hoping!) that such proof will be denied us, and then we can rest comfortably in our polite but practicing Christian agnosticism defended against the extremes of charity and not at all roused from the routine of stopping Christ at the threshold of our hearts and gently inviting him to take a seat and wait on our need for more information. There will be no further signs. The Church herself, born yesterday at Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit, is the sign of Christ’s presence. If we are not enough, there will never be enough, and Jesus will sit in the waiting room of our soul, while you, the suspicious Pharisee, poke at his arguments and ponder his words and sift his motives and slowly but ever so surely waste the body and soul you have been given, picking apart ever syllogism, every piece of evidence. But you won’t do this, will you? The Holy Spirit has you gripped by the heart and mind, otherwise you wouldn’t be here this morning. Jesus got in a boat and went across the sea to get away from the nagging doubters. Put yourself in that boat with him, go across the sea with him and ask him the only question that finally matters: Lord, how do I serve you?


  1. Fr RP9:34 PM

    Good homily. Oftentimes I will remind people that when presented with a challenge, people will do one of three things: ignore, rise to the occasion, or find a way to dismiss. If they choose the latter, they wiil either attack the argument, or failing that, engage in ad hominum attacks. the Pharisees did not want to believe because they did not want to change. You are right in that we have so much of that in our own pews. But no more than Jesus backed down from continuing His proclamation of the Gospel, should we.

    I saw that you were at my alam mater, Kenrick Seminary in STL. I hope you found it a pleasant experience.

  2. Anonymous6:03 PM

    One way to help Father is to
    capitalize all personal pronouns referring to Our Lord.