The Pharisees came and started to argue with Jesus. Hoping to embarrass him, they asked for some heavenly sign. Then his spirit was moved. He gave a deep sigh and said, «Why do the people of this present time ask for a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this people». Then he left them, got into the boat again and went to the other side of the lake.
Many of us can imagine and think that this gospel doesn’t concern us, because we don’t ask for a sign to put Jesus to test or to embarrass him. If we do a simple examination of conscience, we will discover that we insist that the Lord does a miracle in our favour, or sometime asking to be a just God in punishing the evil doers, or even asking Him an answer for all the injustice or the miseries of the world. Somewhere in our imaginative piety, we wish that the God remains as our simple slave who will respond to all our prayers which are just and validly made in humility and confidence, without taking care of His will or even His desire.
Gladly God doesn’t listen to all our prayers (the world would have already disappeared). He knows what is best for us and all, and the graces that we are capable of receiving. He responds to these prayers, which are raised with full knowledge of all the events of past, present and future, in accordance with His divine will. Since this God is a God of goodness, He can’t respond to our prayers, which may not achieve this goodness, not only for us, but to all the people of God, the people whom He loves.
If we search for the signs of Divine love, it is easily found in the smile of a little child, in the gratitude of a beggar, in the eyes of a healed sick person, in the morning smoothening sun, in the docile of the moon, in the dancing of the leaves, in the music of the birds, etc. There are plenty of human witnesses before us, if we wish to scrutinise the divine sign. Our life and its finality itself is a sign of divine accompaniment and mercy. Those who have eyes, let them see these signs and be happy of God’s love and protection.
Daily Quote from the early church fathers:
Why does this generation seek a sign, by John Chrysostom (347-407 AD)
"But for what sign from heaven were they asking? Maybe that he should hold back the sun, or curb the moon, or bring down thunderbolts, or change the direction of the wind, or something like that?... In Pharaoh's time there was an enemy from whom deliverance was needed (Exodus 3-15). But for one who comes among friends, there should be no need of such signs." (excerpt from GOSPEL OF ST. MATTHEW, HOMILY 53.3)
«Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given»
Fr. Jordi POU i Sabater
(Sant Jordi Desvalls, Girona, Spain)
Today, it looks like the Gospel does not say too much about Jesus or about us. «Why do the people of this present time ask for a sign?» (Mk 8:12). Commenting on this episode of Jesus' life, Pope John Paul II says: «Jesus invites us to discern between the words and the deeds testimony of (or a “sign of”) the arrival of God's Kingdom». It seems the Pharisees questioning Jesus are lacking the capacity or the will to discern that sign which —in fact— is the entire manifestation, deeds and words, of the Lord.
Nowadays, Jesus is also asked for some heavenly signs: that He let us see his presence in our world or that He tells us in a clear cut manner how we are to behave. The Roman Pontiff makes us see that Jesus' negative to give a sign to the Jews —and, consequently, to us, too— is due to the fact He wants to change the «world logics, oriented to look for signs confirming man's desire of assertiveness and power». The Pharisees did not want just any sign, but one showing Jesus as the Messiah they wanted. They were not waiting for the Messiah coming to save them, but for the Messiah who was to give them the certainty they were doing things the right way.
In short, when the Jews in Jesus' time, or to-day's Christians, ask —one way or another— for a sign, what we are actually asking for, is for God to act according to our own way, that which we think is better and which also stands by our way of thinking. But God, who is omniscient and omnipotent (this is why in The Lord's Prayer we say “your will be done”), has His own ways which, more often than not, we find it difficult to understand. But He, who allows us to find him when we are truly looking for him, if we beg him to enlighten us, He will give us to understand which are his ways and how we can, today, distinguish his signs.