Only he who believes is obedient. Only he who is obedient, believes. --Deitrich Bonhoeffer: (1906 –1945: was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, & anti-Nazi dissident)
Gospel Text: (MT 12:38-42)
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.
Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,
so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
three days and three nights.
At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah;
and there is something greater than Jonah here.
At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon;
and there is something greater than Solomon here.”
The scribes and Pharisees in today's reading wanted proof that God's power was at work in their world. We want it, too. We ask God to do something and then start looking for evidence that our prayers are being answered. When we intercede for others, we hope that soon we'll hear good news from them. Our prayer requests are usually accompanied by a desire for proof that God has heard us and cares and is doing something to make life better.
But Jesus said, "An evil and unfaithful age is eager for a sign!" He's not implying that it's a sin to want signs. Often, God does give us signs; it's one of the ways he communicates his will to us. The sin occurs when we distrust him, eager for a sign that would give proof that he loves us and cares -- instead of trusting that his goodness and compassion are constant and everlasting.
How many times do we entrust a person or situation over to God and then nothing happens? The problem often seems to get worse, right? Remember this: God never ignores us nor abandons us. The answer to prayer is usually a process. Sadly, because people's free wills are involved, the process might take years.
While we wait, God invites us to trust him more. He wants us to choose to remember that he does truly care and that he is turning everything into an ultimate good in which we -- and others -- will benefit. Jesus taught me to think of it this way: Everything is pregnant with God's activity. It's impossible for God to be inactive. Some answers to prayer require a lot of incubation time, slowly growing within the womb of God's love and mercy. And always -- always -- a new blessing is born from it.