Saturday, January 25, 2014

Looking for a sign from God

Jim was a God-loving, Church-going man.  One day there was a flood in his town and the whole town began to fill with water.  Jim, however, was not worried. He was certain that God was on his side and would send him a sign to save him. As the water filled the first floor of his house, he went upstairs to his bedroom. Outside his window he saw his friend Fred going by in a rowboat. Fred said, “Hey Jim! Get in my boat and we’ll be safe!”  But, Jim replied, “No Fred, I am waiting for a sign from God!” And Fred rowed away.  The water got higher and Jim had to climb on his roof. Then he hears an approaching helicopter. “Climb up the ladder and get in the helicopter!” said the pilot. “No thanks,” Jim said. “I am waiting for a sign from God.” Well, the water went even higher and took Jim with it.  Jim eventually arrives in heaven and approaches the throne of God.  Jim was not very hapy with God and said to him, “Lord, I’ve been a good man all my life! I prayed every day. Went regularly to Mass.  Treated my fellow brothers and sisters well.  Gave to the poor. I did everything you asked of me.  Why did you let me drown in the flood? Why didn’t you send me a sign?”  And God said, “What are you talking about Jim? I sent you a boat and a helicopter! How many more signs did you want?”

Have you ever felt like Jim and just wanted a sign from God?  I know I have.  When I was discerning my vocation to the priesthood and religious life, I had met other young men who were also hearing God’s call in their lives and some of them shared wonderful experiences – some of them quite spectacular – about the ways that God had given them signs.  I remember going to my Church one day and praying, rather aggravated with God.  “God, I’m ready to give my life to you.  To serve you as a priest! Why can’t you give me a sign like you gave them?”  When I left the church, I turned the corner and there on a billboard, larger than life, it read, “Are you looking for a sign from God?”  Now the rest of it read, “Join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, The Mormons.”  I didn’t take it to mean that I should become a Mormon, but I did take it to mean that God was gently and humorously reminding me that signs were all around me, if only I took a moment to stop and look and see them.

Our Gospel today begins, “When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea.” Jesus hears that John has been arrested. He figures that the movement that John started would be need a new leader and no one was better suited to assume leadership than He Himself. That’s it. That is all the sign that Jesus needed. He said farewell to his family and moved on to meet the challenges of His public calling. Unlike Jim in our story, Jesus did not sit and wait for a special supernatural sign from above. Rather, Jesus read the “signs of the times,” He figured things out by being attentive to what’s going on around Him to understand what God might be asking of Him.

Do you want to know what God’s plan is for your life today?  It’s no more complicated than it was for Jesus. So, what needs do you see in the world around you?  Maybe, as you look around, you see the need for more messengers of God’s love and peace and kindness and compassion in our world today? So, how can you be that messenger in your life, where God has planted you? Maybe you see a need for more forgiveness and reconciliation in the people around you – in your family; at work; in school?  So, how can you be the instrument of that healing?  Maybe you pass by the same homeless person, the same hungry person, the same cold and shivering person every day?  What can you do to help them in their need? Because when you do it for them, you do it for Christ.

But, the key is for all of us to stop waiting for the thunder clap; to stop waiting for the miraculous voice from heaven; to stop waiting for the supernatural special sign and to recognize that God is talking to us in the very real moments of every day and every person we meet. “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

In July, speaking on the Feast of St. Thomas, Pope Francis said that we encounter Jesus in these every day moments.  He said, “We find Jesus in carrying out works of mercy, giving to the body of your wounded brother, because he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he is naked, because it is humiliated, because he is a slave, because he's in jail, because he is in the hospital. Those are the wounds of Jesus today. And Jesus asks us to take a leap of faith, towards Him, but through these, His wounds. We need to touch the wounds of Jesus, we must caress the wounds of Jesus, we need to bind the wounds of Jesus with tenderness, we have to kiss the wounds of Jesus. Just think of what happened to St. Francis, when he embraced the leper? The same thing that happened to Thomas: his life changed.

My brothers and sisters, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  God’s signs are all around us.  Let us embrace what God asks of us and let us be forever changed by it.

May the Lord give you peace.

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