Signs – Arnel Aquino, SJ

Luke 11:29-32, Monday of 28th Week in Ordinary Time

I have a few good friends who at some point in their lives prayed a particular novena. And while they did, they hoped to be given a sign at the end of nine days whether God’s answer to their petition was a “yes” or a “no”. If they were given a rose, whether or not there was an apparent reason, or if they smelled roses whether or not there were roses around, then that was God’s “yes”. Otherwise, it was a “no”. And you know, some did get roses and some did smell them–and they were really granted what they asked for in the novena.

I understand how we would want God to give us a sign—especially when we need some form of initial certitude over God’s “yes” or “no”, or what’s going to happen according to his will. What I find just a bit dangerous in this is when we subconsciously want God to send us a sign that we want, a sign in our terms. Very often, the more dramatic a sign is, or the stranger it is, the more we believe it’s from “heaven”—like a white butterfly out of the blue, or the time 11:11 on a digital clock, or a dream. When we start expecting those kinds of signs, then we might have begun looking for our own sign of confirmation rather than seriously discerning God’s will.

“This generation is perverse,” Jesus says in the Gospel, “It seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it.” By the time this story happened, Jesus had already fed 5,000 people, already healed a demon-possessed boy, already raised a dead girl back to life. But to a people who envisioned a Messiah in their own image and likeness, the signs had to be tailored to their specifications. So, even if the Messiah stood right before their very eyes with signs aplenty, he was lost on them.

If we wish to see signs from God, maybe we shouldn’t first resort to the other-worldly or the preternatural. God’s signs are all around us, God’s signs are also within. How is your relationship with your spouse going? Or your teenager? Or your parents? That’s a sign. How is your body feeling, what do you weigh, how’s your cholesterol? That’s a sign. If you’re a boss in your office, are people happy to see you when you come in? Or do you say you really don’t care anymore if your people like you or not? That’s another sign. What’s the predominant inner dialogue you hear in your head: is it often immediately critical? Is it about gratitude? Is it always a list of things to do? That’s a sign too. If you were to pie-chart your overall moods at the end of each day for a week, how does the slice of “awesome” compare with the slice of “don’t ask”? Well, that’s a sign, and God is telling us something through them. In other words, when we need a sign from God to help us to know his will, his desire—we take a good, contemplative look at people around us, and we take a good, contemplative look inside us, what we think, and what we feel. We look at our bodies and we look into our hearts. We heed what people say, then watch our reactions. We listen to what we say, then notice their reactions. Because through all of these, God signs his presence and his will. In theology, we say that God is a revelatory God and that his will is to constantly disclose himself to us. We can be sure then, that God doesn’t want to keep us guessing. God would love for us to get the message.

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