Monday, February 15, 2010

Discovering God's 'Signs' in the Ordinary (Monday, Week VI in Ordinary Time, 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.”
Then he left them, got into the boat again,
and went off to the other shore.

* * * * * * * * *

The whole tendency of the age in which Jesus lived was to look for God in the abnormal. It was believed for instance that when the Messiah came the most startling and shattering things would happen. However, when false messiahs did arise back then, they lured people to follow them by promising them astonishing signs. The would promise, for instance, to divide the waters of the Jordan river and to leave a pathway through it, or they would promise, with a word, to make the walls of the city collapse. It was a sign like this that the Pharisees were demanding. They wished to see some shattering event blazing across the sky, defying the laws of nature and astonishing people.

To Jesus, such a demand was not due to their desire to see the hand of God at work, but rather due to the fact that they were blind to the hand of God. For him the whole world was full of the signs of God. We saw him use them to speak of the Kingdom of God during so many occasions: the corn in the field, the leaven in the loaf, the fishermen’s nets, and the ordinary people to whom he preached. All of these things spoke to him of God.

Jesus did not think that God had to break in, in some staggering, mind-boggling way, from outside the world. GOD, FOR HIM, WAS ALREADY PRESENT IN AND AT WORK, IN THE WORLD. God is already in the world, for anyone who had eyes to see.

The sign of the truly religious individual is not so much that he or she comes to Church to find God but that he or she finds God everywhere. The sign of the truly religious individual is not so much that he or she makes a great deal of sacred places, but that he or she sanctifies common places.

God, after all, is the God of the common and ordinary, in much the same way that he is the God of the uncommon and extraordinary. The Eucharist is proof of this truth. Ordinary bread and wine, changed into the body and blood of Christ; ordinary men and women, coming together to be transformed into the same Body, with Christ as Head. Ordinary men and women, with their joys and pains, triumphs and defeats, strengths and weaknesses, happiness and our heartaches, sins, and woundedness -all transformed by Jesus into a people fit to offer our whole selves to God. What more proof does one need?

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)