Readings: Micah 6:1-4, 6-8; Matthew 12:38-43
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.”
I suspect that any confessor knows the frustration of responding to people unwilling to risk a decision or commitment without first perceiving a “sign.” And usually, it’s not a question of perceiving but being overcome by, being hit over the head with a “sign.”
It’s often worth the effort and expenditure of patience to walk such people through the Scriptures–and a good dose of common sense–out of this dead-end. After all, part of their paralysis may result from the lack of responsible preaching or excess of facile platitudes tossed at certain members of the Church with whom the clergy have had little interest or engagement.
If Jesus shows little patience with some of the scribes and Pharisees in today’s Gospel, it’s for a good reason. They’ve studied the Scriptures, the living tradition of (often common-sense) Jewish interpretation, they’ve meditated on God’s Wisdom and they should know better. They are not superstitious, credulous children.
It’s significant that Jesus never says there is no sign. But the available sign is not an attractive one and in no way replaces making a decision or commitment–either of which would be costly. The true signs are not guarantees of being right, but God meeting us more than half way to build on our trusting responses to our challenges or doubts.