Refusing Signs — Monday, 6th Week of Ordinary Time—Year II

Readings: James 1:1-11, Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, 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? Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.

Yet, soon before this scene in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus took seven loaves and a few fish and miraculously fed about 4,000 people with them. That is a sign as surely as his resurrection will be, so how can Jesus say “no sign will be given to this generation”? Perhaps because there was no sign that his critics would accept.

The Pharisees sought “a sign from heaven.” If Jesus had performed some meteorological sign for them they may well have judged him as more evil than they had thought, in union with the demons of the air, just as they had condemned his manifest power to cast out demons. (Mark 3:21-30) They asked for proof but refused to accept evidence in his favor–they were of people of two minds, like St. James describes in the first reading:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he 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. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.

Let us pray for those who do not believe; for the sincere, that they may be given sufficient evidence to change their minds, and for the obstinate, that their hardened hearts may be opened. And let us who believe in God (as even the Pharisees did) not cause Jesus to “[sigh] from the depth of his spirit.” Let us be trusting and docile in following him.

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