Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sixth Monday in Ordinary Time

Jas 1:1-11
Ps 119:67-8, 71-2,75-6
Mk 8:11-13

The Gospel today is about as short as a Gospel reading can be, just three verses.  But it packs a punch and reflects the first reading from James.  While James exhorts those who are being troubled to hold onto their faith, Jesus is expressing his frustration with those who demand signs almost as a basis for having faith, of a sort.

In both the Old Testament and the New Testament asking for a "sign" is asking for a miracle.  As a bit of trivia, the word miracle does not appear in either testament.  The closest we come to what we understand as miracle is a word translated as "marvel" that appears only once in the New Testament, in Matthew.  Thus, asking for a sign is asking for a miracle of some sort. 

The Russian writer Dostoyevsky put it well when he wrote, "Man seeks not so much God as the miraculous."  The late Jesuit Father Stanley Marrow describes the same with less brevity.  "The difficulty with signs and miracles, even the greatest of them, is that our appetite for them is insatiable.  The recipient of the favor . . . keeps coming back for more.  We are forever testing to see if God is still there, whether our prayers are getting through."

Jesus' signs and miracles are manifestations of God but they do not produce faith.  They are only experienced--or sometimes even noticed--by those with faith. 

As James exhorts in his letter, "ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind."  When we demand signs from God we are going to be disappointed because our demand for a sign comes not from faith but from an attitude of "oh yeah?  Show me."  May we approach God not with an attitude of show me but with the words of the psalmist on our lips,

"I know, O Lord,
that your ordinances are just
and in your faithfulness
you have afflicted me.
Let your kindness comfort me."
Just a few photos.  
I've been fascinated for years by the Dutch genre paintings, particularly the still life works that depict glass, light, shadow and so on.  It took a long time to come to an appreciation of that kind of work.  Given the snow and general unpleasantness of the weekend weather (it was a tad warmer but the low tonight is to be 9) there were good excuses to stay in and play with photos. 

The first is a detail of a small stained glass window in an out-of-the-way hallway near where the two other photos were taken. 
These two are the same place taken from different perspectives.  They remind me of the Dutch Master paintings in the way the light makes all the difference.  The scene itself was more than a little mundane (and kind of dusty too, given the lack of traffic through the area).  

+Fr Jack, SJ, MD

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