Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, February 17
May the Sign We Seek Be the Divine Presence within Us, for It Is God’s Word, Together with the Holy Sacraments, Which Are the Only Signs We Need for Our Salvation.
We hear in today’s Gospel, “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?’”
I remember many years ago, in the late 1980’s and early 90’s, there was a report that our Blessed Mother was appearing to a man, whose first name was Joseph, in a small community called Marlboro in North Jersey.
If I remember the story correctly as it was reported in various news sources, including the Associated Press and the New York Times, she would reportedly appear once a month, and several thousands of people would drive there, some from places several hundreds of miles away.
Each month, the congestion of cars and people would overcome this small community, and the local police force, which was trying to keep everything orderly and running smoothly, was completely overwhelmed and understaffed. Needless to say, many of the local residents were distraught at the inconveniences which all of this was creating for them.
I am not here to write about the validity or invalidity of these reported apparitions, for, as far as I know, there has not been any official Church ruling concerning this matter. What I do ponder, however, are the motives behind the thousands of people who would go there each month. What did they go to see?
If their motivation was purely out of love for our Blessed Mother and a desire to reach out to the sacred, then may God bless them for their faith. However, if their motivation was purely out of curiosity to see signs, the miraculous from heaven, then they remind me of the Pharisees we read about in today’s Gospel.
If we turn back today’s Reading from Mark’s Gospel to one chapter earlier, we will find that these same Pharisees had just seen our Lord healing a deaf man with a speech impediment. And then Jesus went on to feed more than four thousand people with a few loaves of bread and some fish.
No wonder Scripture says our Lord “…sighed from the depth of his spirit…” The eyes of the Pharisees where closed to the miracles of Love which Jesus had just provided. They wanted to see, what I would call, the “special-effects” kind of signs that Hollywood creates for us.
So, the people who flocked to Marlboro, New Jersey, looking for “special-effects” were not unlike the Pharisees we find in today’s Reading. The others, however, who went on pilgrimage, who went out of love and faith, they are the people who were truly living their relationship of love with God, showing their love and respect for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and possibly praying that their pilgrimage would allow them an opportunity to make a personal connection with the God whom they love deeply, as is the case for the millions of faithful who make a pilgrimage to the Lourdes and Fatima shrines each year, as well as other renowned shrines around the world.
And is that not what each of us is trying to do – make a personal connection with all that we hold holy and sacred in our walk of faith? And it is these people, whose faith holds such an important part of their lives, to whom James was writing in today’s First Reading.
James’ letter is what is called a circular letter, a letter addressed to the non-Palestinian Christian Jews of the twelve tribes of Israel, who were scattered throughout the Greco-Roman world, a letter that would circulate throughout all the various Christian communities.
He begins by writing, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
James was writing to a people whose hearts were open to signs of God’s Love. He was writing to people who were living their faith in the midst of personal struggles. And he encourages them with these words, “And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
But then he tells them to ask for a special gift, which is a sign of God’s Love, when he says, “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 there IS a condition to this sign of God’s Love which He will give. And James writes, “But he should ask in faith, not doubting.” The person who doubts, James writes, “…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.”
And it is this doubt which comes from a lack of a deep and abiding faith – a condition which we find in the Pharisees.
What do we find when comparing these two different ways of seeking signs – of seeking God’s Love? The Pharisees were not seeking truth. They were only trying to find ways to trap Jesus with His own words, for they had already decided to have Him killed. Their demand for a sign from Heaven followed upon their rejection of the miraculous signs of healing and feeding, which Jesus had previously shown
Whereas, James was advising the faithful Christian communities to seek the gift of wisdom, which comes from God, as a means of persevering in the midst of personal hardships and troubled times.
The psalmist in today’s Responsorial echoes the advice James is giving in his Letter, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”
In the book of Sirach from the Old Testament, it tells us that “The beginning of wisdom is fear of the LORD, which is formed with the faithful in the womb.” Wisdom is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is the gift which helps each of us to live a virtuous life, a life of faith, a life of love. It is the gift which perfects the virtue of charity within us and helps you and I to discern God’s Presence in all of His creation – a sign of God’s unfathomable Love for His children.
And real wisdom is not looking for the miraculous from Heaven, but it is in the love which we hold, in the very center of our hearts, for God and His Truth – and living that Love and Truth in our daily lives.
May the sign we seek be the Divine Presence within us, for it is God’s Word, together with the Holy Sacraments, which are the only signs that we truly need for our eternal salvation! †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
- “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.” (James 1:5-6)
- “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.” (James 1:7-8)
- “The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. [Jesus] sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign?” (Mark 8:11-12b)
- “Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy.” (Hebrews 10:23)
- “Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
- “It is good for me to be afflicted, in order to learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.” (Psalm 119:71-72)
- “The beginning of wisdom is fear of the LORD, which is formed with the faithful in the womb.” (Sirach 1:12)
- “Those who fear the LORD trust in the LORD, who is their help and shield.” (Psalm 115:11)
- “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
Prayer for the Day
“God, our Heavenly Father,
may I love You in all things and above all things.
May I reach the joy which You have prepared
for me in Your Heavenly Kingdom.
“Nothing is good that is against Your will,
and all that is good comes from Your Hand.
Place in my heart a desire to please You
and fill my mind with thoughts of Your Love.
“Inspire me to live Your Love in my life,
so all that I am and all that I do
may truly be an offering of myself
as incense before Your Heavenly Throne.
“Almighty and Eternal God,
bless me with the gifts and the fruits of Your Holy Spirit,
so that I may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace.
This I ask in Jesus’ Most Holy Name. Amen”Anonymous