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Demanding Proof or Having Faith
Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here. At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, as I settle into this time with you, I ask for your help to focus on your presence. Lord, I believe in you. Help me listen with expectancy. Lord, I trust you with all my concerns, knowing that you desire only my good. Lord, I love you. Accept this prayer as an act of love, and through it help me grow closer to you and desire to live for you in every thought, word, and deed.
- We Wish to See a Sign from You: Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” He said to them in reply, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign…” By this time, Jesus had already performed many miracles. He had turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana, healed an official’s son, drove an evil spirit from a man in Capernaum, healed Peter’s mother-in-law, and cured many others who were sick and oppressed. The first miraculous catch of fish on the lake of Gennesaret had occurred, and Jesus cleansed a man with leprosy, healed the centurion’s servant, healed a paralyzed man who was lowered through the roof, and healed a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath. In the face of so many miracles–of so many signs–the demand for another sign could be seen as a kind of refusal to see and accept what has already been amply demonstrated. It was a refusal to have faith, and Jesus responded to this doubt and resistance. Are there Church teachings we refuse to accept? Are there circumstances in our life that we refuse to embrace as God’s providence?
- Jonah and Solomon: The Gentile Ninevites and the queen of the South responded to Jonah and Solomon. Jesus is greater than Jonah and Solomon, yet the scribes and Pharisees persisted in their unbelief and so would be condemned. By refusing to give proof of his divinity by a sign of such a definitive nature, Jesus respects the freedom of the individual to make a decision in faith; he doesn’t compel belief. The Catechism teaches, “So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God. But his miracles can also be occasions for ‘offense’; they are not intended to satisfy people’s curiosity or desire for magic. Despite his miracles some people reject Jesus…” (CCC 548). It also states, “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God” (CCC 150). May our hearts be well disposed to respond to the faith God asks of us.
- In the Heart of the Earth: Jesus refused to provide a sign for the scribes and Pharisees, but he alluded to his own death, burial, and Resurrection by describing Jonah’s experience: “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” He also mentions the “judgment” to come. This was an act of mercy: “The message of the Last Judgment calls men to conversion while God is still giving them ‘the acceptable time…the day of salvation’” (CCC 1041). We will one day be judged as Jesus described: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory…he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left…To those on the right, he will say, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,’ while he says to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’” (Matthew 25:31-46). We live in the time of mercy, so we need not fear judgment. “All grace flows from mercy, and the last hour abounds with mercy for us. Let no one doubt concerning the goodness of God; even if a person’s sins were as dark as night, God’s mercy is stronger than our misery” (St. Faustina).
Conversing with Christ: Lord, the scribes and Pharisees heard of or saw all the good that you did. Why didn’t they let themselves open their hearts and minds? Yet if I am honest with myself, I know that there are times I don’t want to hear what you are saying to me or asking of me. There are times when I demand proof. Lord, please help me to grow in faith, surrender all that I am to you, and live according to your will. Grant me self-knowledge and the grace to overcome any of the obstacles, such as pride, vanity, or laziness, that hinder my response to your call.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will reflect on the Act of Faith prayer and invite a family member or friend to make an Act of Faith with me:
O my God, I firmly believe
that you are one God in three divine Persons,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I believe that your divine Son became man
and died for our sins and that he will come
to judge the living and the dead.
I believe these and all the truths
which the Holy Catholic Church teaches
because you have revealed them
who are eternal truth and wisdom,
who can neither deceive nor be deceived.
In this faith I intend to live and die.
For Further Reflection: Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church 678-679, “To Judge the Living and the Dead.”
Janet McLaughlin and her husband Chris live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics.
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