In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is asked for a sign, ostensibly to demonstrate that He is who He says He is. But Jesus replies, “An evil and unfaithful generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.” Then Jesus offers a parallel between Jonah in the belly of the whale and He in “the heart of the earth.”
There may have been times in our lives when we asked for a sign, especially at times when we were trying to discern God’s will. Does that mean we are an “evil and unfaithful generation?” I don’t think so, but you can almost hear the frustration in Jesus’ voice as He tries to point out that He is the sign they are looking for.
If there are times when we’re not sure of what direction God wants us to go, I can’t see that it is wrong to ask for a sign. But if we are at a time in our lives when we wonder whether God loves us or not, all we need do is look at the Cross! We can read the Scriptures. We can observe the beauty of creation. We can look at our lives, and as it says so famously in “Footprints,” we can see when Jesus was carrying us through our most difficult trials. These are the signs that God has already given us to show us His love! And there are probably so many small signs every day that come to us, whether it is an encouraging word, a hand on the shoulder, or even just a smile.
Some of the Pharisees just refused to believe in Jesus, and it wouldn’t have mattered what sign Jesus gave them. But for us who believe, may we have the grace to see and hear the signs, big and small, that God sends our way.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.