Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Give Us A Sign

First Reading: Ex 2:1-15a
Psalm: Ps 69:3, 14, 30-31, 33-34 -- Turn to the Lord in your need, and you will live
Gospel: Mt 11:20-24

Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum: Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld. For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you. - Matthew 11:21-24


Something that every Christian that has attempted to share their faith is familiar with is the argument called "show us your God." This is when a skeptic says that they will believe in Jesus and God if they can see them, or witness a miracle. One individual stated that, because Paul had a personal apparition to make him believe, that opportunity should be open to everyone. Seeing is believing.

In today's gospel reading, Jesus flatly contradicts such claims. All three towns he names in the "woe" category are those on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, an area where he spent much time performing miracles. He knew them well and it is impossible that the people of the area did not know the name of Jesus of Nazareth (see Mt 4:22-24). Many had seen miracles with their own eyes and the testimony of those deeds was spread far, but the people would not believe.

So what of the three Jesus says would repent? Sodom is the best known of the three, destroyed by God as punishment for their wickedness. Tyre and Sidon are great port cities on the Mediterranean Sea, north and west of Galilee. They come in frequently in the Old Testament as places of scorn, worshippers of pagan gods. Not exactly cities with a sterling reputation. Yet, Jesus himself visits the region of Tyre not long after (Mt. 15:21-28). In that visit, he explicitly tells a woman begging a cure for her daughter that he is to minister to the Israelites first, but heals the daughter because of the woman's faith.

Twice, the Pharisees and Saducees ask for a sign, (Mt. 12:38, Mt. 16:1). Each time, Jesus' response is the same "An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah," (Mt.12:39, Mt. 16:4). After the first request, he reminds them of Ninevah, where Jonah prophesized. They repented after a single day and were spared. The second time, he tells them that they can tell the weather by the signs in the sky, but not understand the signs in front of their eyes.

In our own time, the people seek a sign. We constantly ask for small miracles and many of us greatly desire to see mighty works. Yet, we often forget the great miracles that have already been done for us, or we fail to see the works of God right under our very noses. Those who wish to see miracles may find them in every moment; those who will not accept them will not see them, no matter their size. Seeing is not believing. Only believing is believing.

Heavenly Father, we thank you and praise you for the miracle of this day. We stand in awe of thte mighty works that you have wrought for us and your glory is revealed in all of creation. Lord, bless us with the gift of faith, that we might first believe and second adore. Grant that those who have hardened their hearts and minds to you may be awakened to your glory. We ask all these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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