Seeking Signs

Mark 8: 11-13
James 1: 1-11 / Psa 119

Why does this generation seek a sign?
(Mark 8:12)

We do not need to seek a sign
To understand all things divine.
These are revealed to us in time,
Have faith and trust in God’s design.

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? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other side. (Mark 8:11-13)

Reflection

We have a short Gospel passage today, but it bears a lot of insight worth reflecting. Clearly, our Lord knew that the hearts of the Pharisees were already too hardened by hypocrisy and pride to be convinced that He was really the Messiah. No amount of signs, miracles, or words of wisdom from Him could change their unbelief. After all, he had just performed the miracle of feeding 4,000 people from 7 loaves of bread and a few fish, with 7 baskets left over (Mk.8:1-9). Earlier in another place, Jesus had also fed 5,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish (Mk.6:41-44). He had also been healing many people of various ailments, and even casting out demons from the possessed in various places. What more signs did they need? Jesus would not be lured into ‘showing signs’ merely for their curiosity or entertainment.

Instead, Jesus threw the question back to them: “Why does this generation seek a sign?” He might be asking our generation as well, why we are constantly asking God to give us a sign whenever we are placed in a trying situation. Don’t we sometimes call God to account in times of trials, tribulations or tragedies? We are so agitated by the situation or event that we fail to see it as a mere sign pointing to a larger picture, to a more important message from Him. A lot of young people today say they don’t believe in God because of the corruption, conflicts and misery that they find the world to be in. They ask, “If there really is a God out there, why is He allowing all this mess and evil to thrive all over the world?” They do not see that these are all consequences of man’s disobedience to God’s will, and his insatiable greed for wealth and power. At the same time, they are also signs, or warnings of even worse catastrophes to come if men do not reform their ways. Take the issue of global warming, for example. Most scientists have confirmed that this phenomenon is man-made, but can still be reversed if countries all over the world would only put a cap on their carbon dioxide emissions. There is clear evidence of glaciers melting, flooding low lying islands in the Pacific, and desertification spreading in Africa, the Middle East and other countries due to increased temperatures. But countries like India and China refuse to slow down in their industrial development, putting up more coal-fired power plants to feed their power-hungry factories and booming cities, buying more oil even if the price of petroleum has doubled in only one year, and polluting their rivers and atmosphere in the process. The present worldwide economic meltdown could in fact be the sign of a blessing in disguise.

We can never “see” the signs if we lack faith, and we have no faith because we do not pray to God and ask for wisdom. “But we should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind” (James 1:6) Faith in God therefore is the key to our understanding of the signs of the times. As St. Paul wrote, “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe…” (Eph.1:18-19).

Direct our paths, O Holy Spirit with the signs of every event in our lives, and with the Word of God in Holy Scriptures to enlighten us, and give us hope in God’s glory. Amen.

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