Step #1: Lectio / REad
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.”
Step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
Years ago when my wife and I were looking to buy a house for our ever-expanding family, there were a ton of houses on the market. We searched for months, looking at well over a hundred homes online and over fifty in-person. At some point we wondered if it was not the Lord's will that we own a home right now. So we decided to pray a novena to St. Therese of Lisieux. Traditionally with that novena you ask St. Therese to give you a sign that she is interceding for you by "giving" you a rose.
We started our nine days of prayer. We began seeing roses everywhere. Might've been a coincidence, right? And then on the ninth and final day of our novena, we visited a house that we liked. A lot.
And now we live in it.
The Lord often gives us signs to encourage us and strengthen our faith. There's nothing superstitious or wrong with these signs, as long as we keep them in perspective. So why does Jesus make such a big deal about the scribes and Pharisees asking for a sign? After all, Jesus is claiming to be God, so the least He could do is give them some proof, right?
Why were they asking for a sign though?
Remember, the scribes and Pharisees were generally not a big fan of Jesus. They constantly tried to trick, trap and defame Him. They were asking for a sign because they didn't believe Him, nor did they even want to believe Him. They were hoping for another opportunity to discredit Him.
First mistake: They tested God. We aren't supposed to test Him as if He has something to prove to us. When we do that, we're being sort of condescending towards God, who is infinitely and unfathomably greater. We're like, "God, give me a sign so I can determine if Your divinity is valid or not." Then God is like, "Give you a sign??? How about I let you keep existing??? Every heartbeat and breath you take should be enough proof for you!"
Second mistake: They didn't have faith. And this is the real problem in today's passage. We, like the scribes and Pharisees, misunderstand what it means to have faith and to have a relationship with the Lord. We promise God we'll have faith if He just gives us more proof... more signs. When we stop seeing the signs, we start drifting away from Him. We're unwilling to believe unless we have sufficient proof. But that's not faith, that's stubbornness.
Now you can see why Jesus might've been a little miffed.
So what is faith? "Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). It's not blind and irrational assent to religious beliefs. It's looking at the "evidence of things not seen" and embracing "the realization of what is hoped for" -- eternal life. If you're looking for proof, you're wasting your time. There is no scientific proof for God's existence (nor is there any scientific proof that He doesn't exist, either). But there is an awful lot of really good evidence.
The best evidence we have is Jesus Christ, God Himself becoming Man for us. The scribes and Pharisees looked right at Jesus -- God Himself -- and asked for a sign. Jesus replies, "I am the sign. Am I not enough for you?"
Is He evidence enough for you to have faith?
Step #3: Oratio / Pray
"Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen."
What are some of the greatest signs the Lord has given you to help you believe? Spend some time reflecting on them and thanking Him for encouraging your faith.
Do you ever test God? How? Why? Have a conversation with our Lord about these times you lack faith.
Faith is one of the theological virtues -- faith, hope and love -- meaning we can't increase it on our own. We need to receive it as a gift from the Lord. Pray now for an increase of faith.
So many people do not know Jesus... but you do. With all your heart, thank the Lord for the faith He has given you.
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplate
"Lord, increase my faith."
"God, help me to believe."
"Jesus, You are my sign."
For the Rest of Your Day...
This may sound funny considering today's reading and reflection, but ask the Lord for a sign of His presence today. Don't demand it stubbornly, but ask it lovingly and with trust. Then look for the sign. It may be large, or it may be small and insignificant to those who lack faith. But evidence of His loving presence is everywhere!
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Today's prayer was prepared by Dan Wolff.