Last Sunday’s gospel told of how Jesus challenged the generosity of the crowd of 5000 when He took the five barely loaves and two fish and began to share them with those around him. His act of openhandedness had a ripple effect throughout the crowd as people followed His example and began to share with those around them the food they brought with them to this gathering.
In today’s gospel we see many of those same people seeking Him out. Not fully impressed with His teachings they were looking for something more. So we have their question; “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see and believe.” All through His years of teaching and healing this was a constant demand,” give us a sign so that we may believe, give us a sign so that we may know You are authentic, You are from God.” At one point Jesus so much as says, if you won’t believe my words at least believe my works, they should convince you I am from God and I am with God.
Give us a sign was the last demand of the mocking crowd as they jeered the crucified Christ, “come down from the cross and we will believe.” Give us a sign.
In today’s gospel we heard the people quoting their own scriptures saying, “Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, He gave them bread from heaven to eat” In other words, ‘can you top that? Can you offer a greater sign?
So often we wonder about the presence, the love, the healing and forgiveness of God in our lives. We may be hurting so badly, be so confused by the evil and injustices in the world we wonder, is there a God? We may be so depressed or lonely we wonder does God really love or care for me? We may be so burdened by memories of past sins and failings, we wonder, can God really forgive me? In our own way we’re saying ‘give me a sign’ You care for me, give me a sign You love me, give me a sign You forgive me.
In our own time we see that same desperation for a sign when we hear of people or see them on TV flocking to some place where someone claims to have seen the Blessed Mother or Christ. Recently they cut down a tree at a parish church in Ireland. One of the workmen was convinced he saw the face of Christ in the grain of the tree. The news spread like wildfire and people came from all over, lit candles, hung rosaries, left offerings. We’ve heard of bleeding or weeping statues of Mary in different churches. We had such a sighting here in Toronto a couple of years ago. The place was packed with people anxious, maybe even desperate, to see this sign, this wonder.
That’s why the church is so reluctant to certify the validity of claims of visions and miracles even though thousands of people go to these places where Mary or Jesus is supposed to have appeared.
Give us a sign. Think on this, right here, right now we are re-presenting and celebrating the greatest sign God ever gave of God’s love for us. As St. John writes God loved the world so much He sent His son to the world and the Son so loved us He gave His life for us. What greater sign could we have proving we are loved, healed, restored and forgiven? At this Mass, at every Mass a sign is offered us – take this is my body, take, this is my blood – this is my life given for you, this is my life given to you.
When we have our times of doubt and confusion, anger and hurt, when we wonder what its all about or if its all worthwhile – and we all have such times – there is a sign that beacons us through these troubling times- the sign of the crucified – a sign blazing the truth – God loved the world, God loved each of us so much He gave His only Son and the Son so loved us He gave His life for us.
As we continue to celebrate this Mass we can pray for ourselves and for each other that we never loose sight of this sign – this eternal sign of love, forgiveness and healing, Christ crucified, His body broken, His blood shed for you, for me.