Daily Reflection
February 12th, 2001
John Horn, S.J.
Institute for Priestly Formation
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Genesis 4:1-15, 25
Psalms 50:1, 8, 16-17, 20-21
Mark 8:11-13

“The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus.  They were looking for some heavenly sign from him as a test.  With a sigh from the depths of his spirit he said, “Why does this age seek a sign?  I assure you no such sign will be given it!” 

Mark 8:11-13

So often we can read a passage, seeing it and interpreting it in such a way as to reinforce our self-reliant attitudes that prevent us from seeing and tasting the active love of Jesus’ Spirit in everyday life.  In relation to this particular passage we may say in a Christian fundamentalism, “… see, we are not supposed to ask for signs from God, we just have to do our best and let the rest up to him.”

This could not be further from the truth.  In fact, this attitude distances us from the nearness of God’s active loving presence, speaking to us through all sorts of signs.

The real truth is that we must be completely dependent upon Jesus’ Spirit.  He will do everything for us.  He delights in laboring to love us, and he provides innumerable signs of his desire to labor on our behalf.  As Creator, Jesus’ Spirit breathes life into us in our next breath.  He even carries us through daily deaths and that final confrontation with the creature, death, whenever that transpires.

The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins writes in The Grandeur of God, “nature is never spent….the world is charged with signs of his grandeur.”

Why then is Jesus sighing at the Pharisee’ request for a sign?  I think it is a matter of Jesus reading hearts.  When we mask close-minded demands to sound like requests, God sees, and in humility teaches us.  Real requests for signs stem from a genuine openness to seeking after God so as to follow him in love.

The sign is of course Jesus’ humanity, the Incarnation.  Here is a sigh/sign of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in manger near Bethlehem of Judea.  Later it is the sigh/sign of risen wounds presented humbly for Saint Thomas’ healing of painfilled doubts.  Even Thomas’ demands were known by God to be open minded cries of anguish at having lost his dearest friend to death on a cross.

God reads hearts.  Jesus’ Spirit as Humility eagerly pours out signs of love each day.  Ask, or even demand, in open-minded cries of anguish!  Do not be surprised if others, who are honestly seeking after God, begin to see signs of God’s love everywhere.  If you or I are not seeing signs it may be because we have been playing games like the Pharisees.  Whenever we pretend to be openly asking and all the while are close-minded to relying on Jesus as the way to the Father, we only hurt ourselves.

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