21 February 2024

The only sign we need

1st Week of Lent (W)

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

Jesus seems irritated. Maybe “frustrated” is a better word. Apparently, the crowd is clamoring after signs to prove that he is who and what he says he is. We don't know if the crowd is genuinely interested in his claims, or if they are just idly curious or bored. We can assume that they don't believe him. That's usually the case when proof is demanded. Evidence will support or refute his claim. Evidence will settle the issue. But how often is evidence presented; the claim obviously supported; and still acceptance of the claim is not forthcoming? If my mind is made up on some hot button issue (gun control, abortion, capital punishment, the identity of the Messiah), how likely is it that evidence and good argumentation will change my mind? Ideally, my mind is properly ordered to the true, good, and beautiful and can be persuaded to see the true, good, and beautiful wherever it is revealed. But we know all too well that once entrenched into a pattern of thinking, changing one's mind is difficult if not outright impossible. There's always a way to read the evidence to fit my intellectual habits. The crowd wants signs so that they can judge for themselves whether or not Jesus is telling the truth. Unfortunately, signs are not going to help them. Nor will they help us.

Signs won't help us b/c we already believe. Or we say we do. We have already accepted Jesus' claim to be the Messiah and have ordered our lives around being his followers. We aren't always and everywhere perfect followers, but we have fundamentally taken on the mind of Christ and vowed to be Christs in the world. Signs, for us, are pointless. They add nothing to who and what we are. Apparitions, locutions, weeping statues are all well and good, but they are not signs – for us – of Jesus' identity and purpose. If we believe that Jesus is the Messiah and we follow him, then we have a task to complete that's bigger than seeking after signs. We are charged with becoming the signs that the crowd seeks. You and I have agreed to be the signs of God's power in the world. That's His choice and ours. He loves the world through us and in the world we are loved by Him. Thus, we, the Church, are the sacrament by which those in the world encounter divine love. Lenten challenge: go be a sign of divine love. Show the world -- in word and deed -- that Jesus is the Messiah. He died for sinners so that we might live. His empty tomb is the only sign we need.

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