By KATIE GROSS
The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus,
seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said,
“Why does this generation seek a sign?
Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
Then he left them, got into the boat again,
and went off to the other shore.
Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation. I have to admit than when I first read this Gospel reading, it made no sense to me. First of all, Jesus did give many signs of His divinity—He cured the sick, raised the dead, miraculously created food and wine, etc. How, then, do the Pharisees claim that He has showed no sign?
The Pharisees were a group of scholars who trapped themselves behind the rulebook, so to speak. They could most likely recite their holy book word for word, but yet had very little interaction with reality. They had drawn God into their own box of what they expected Him to be. That being said, it is no wonder that they denied the miracles of Jesus—they wanted Him to be like a science experiment, performing a defined reaction on demand that would correspond with the law they already knew. I would say that many people in the modern world are exactly like the Pharisees. Many times, we have a preconceived notion of what is true, and we want God to fit in that box. We want the world to abide by our rules so desperatelythat we miss a million miracles right before our eyes.
The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.” This verse stood out to me in the first reading simply because it illustrates how we have become numb as a culture to the greatest miracle of all: life. Eve really had her act together on this one—she knew that God was the one who had given her the gift of a child. It is painful to see the number of children today that are labeled as “bad circumstances” or “accidents” instead of being honored for what they truly are—gifts from God. Society wants God to fit in the boxes of “women’s’ rights” (whatever that means) and “convenience.” However, by putting God in these boxes, we miss out on so many miracles. To convince a woman that her child is not a gift is to rob that same woman of her own dignity. To convince a woman that her child is not a gift is to tell her that she is unworthy of a gift from God. Eve also had her act together in this aspect—she knew that even though she was the sinner of all sinners, God could still have mercy on her and she was worthy of great gifts. This is another miracle that we overlook on a daily basis: mercy.
Cain said to the LORD: “My punishment is too great to bear. Since you have now banished me from the soil, and I must avoid your presence and become a restless wanderer on the earth, anyone may kill me at sight.” “Not so!” the LORD said to him. “If anyone kills Cain, Cain shall be avenged sevenfold.” So the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill him at sight. In the first reading, God protects Cainfor some incomprehensible reason, even though he is a murderer. God’s mercy is a miracle beyond our understanding.Sometimes I listen to a Christian radio station on my way to school. There is one person on the morning show that always comes on and tells listeners to “wake up and breathe in mercy.” I have to admit that the skeptic in me usually grumbles and writes it off as overly romantic. But is it not true? Every single time we breathe is another assurance that God is sustaining our lives, even when we think we are incredibly sinful and don’t deserve His help. Therein lies my blindness to the miracle of God’s mercy.
Sometimes, we forget that God became human, and we treat Him like some mystical force that doesn’t get His feelings hurt just like we do. Think of all the sadness God must have to endure on a daily basis, seeing His children turn away from Him and even cursing His name! It’s like being rejected by one you desperately love over and over again. But yet, He still would die for us. If that’s not a miracle, then I don’t know what is.
The miracles of life and mercy are just two that we can easily overlook. We must reject the notion that miracles can only be burning bushes or cosmic events. We must not be Pharisees. It’s very timely that Lent is coming up—in Lent, we have the opportunity to cut back on luxuries, intensify our prayer, and start opening our eyes to the simple miracles of our daily life. Let’s pray that God will help us be more grateful and more aware.