The Pharisees ask Jesus to guarantee his authenticity through some unmistakable, perfectly evident heavenly sign. They do not consider his numerous miracles and exorcisms, not to mention his soul-stirring preaching, conclusive proof of his claims. Jesus’ response sounds pretty abrupt. He states flatly, “No such sign will be given.” Then, without a further word, gets into the boat and sets out for the opposite side of the lake.
Actually, though, it is not so difficult to understand the Pharisees’ point of view. There were other wonder-workers and other preachers. And in our own society, do we not constantly hear the demand for the definite conclusion, the absolutely undeniable piece of evidence that clinches the argument for whatever is at stake: the reality of climate change, the safety of inoculations, the suspected cause of cancer? We want the confirming fact that compels belief, especially if the conclusion will upset our present way of living.
However, whatever may be the case in the quest for scientific certainty, in matters of the spirit, God never compels belief. Faith is offered to us as a gift to be freely accepted, not imposed as an unavoidable obligation. Evidence is important; serious use of our reason is commendable. But in the last analysis faith always involves an element of mystery. We accept truths that surpass human understanding. At the heart of faith is the embrace of a Person whom we trust to guide us along the dark paths as well as the lighted ones.
- Sister Mary O’Brien, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Sisters’ community in Union City, NJ.