Because we read the Gospels in short segments spread throughout our calendar, we sometimes miss their cumulative effect. For instance, in the Gospel we read of one of the seventy-seven times that the Pharisees either ask for a sign or question Jesus. Over and over again, they try to make Jesus conform to their notion of who and what the Messiah will be. It is significant that today’s request for a sign comes immediately after Jesus has just fed four thousand people because he feared they would collapse on their way home after spending three days listening to him teach and preach.
We know that people of that time had a preconceived notion of who the Messiah would be. In general, we can say that they wanted the Messiah to fulfill their dreams. Their desires are not all that different than ours. All we have to do is look at the content of our intercessory prayer. The people of Jesus wanted the same things we want, the same things we ask for when we pray. They wanted peace, prosperity, health, and happiness.
In the Letter of James, we are told that we should “consider it all joy” when we “encounter various trials.” Is that the way we approach difficulties? Or do we look for a way out of those trials? No one needs to go looking for trials. Life will present us with more than enough. As I said in yesterday’s homily, rather than simply enduring, we need to look for a way to benefit from the difficulties. Only then will we truly appreciate what God has done for us through the suffering of Jesus.
The Pharisees keep asking for signs and keep testing Jesus because he isn’t giving them what they want. As we approach the table today, let us do so with a resolve to use our difficulties as a means to come to a true appreciation of the gift we have been given.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator