Looking for a sign from God?
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 33rd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, November 13, 2022:
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 heard 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.” The water continued to rise higher and eventually swallowed up Jim. Jim arrived in heaven and approached the throne of God. Jim was not very happy 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, “Why are you hear Jim? I sent you a friend, a boat and a helicopter! How many more signs did you need?”
Have you ever felt like you just wanted a sign from God? Maybe you’ve been praying about a new job, or new relationship, or some new direction in your life and you’re just not sure which way to go. All you want is God to give you a sign. And, any sign will do. Just a little thunder and lightning, maybe a rainbow on the horizon, or miraculous voice from Heaven – something that is an irrefutable sign from God. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
In our Gospel, Jesus gives a prediction about the end of the Temple, “All that you see here--the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” And what the disciples want more than anything is to know irrefutably when this will happen. They ask Him, “What sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” Lord, just give us a sign!
Now, I’m no different than anyone else and I think of a particular time when I really wanted a clear sign from God. When I was discerning my vocation to the priesthood, I had met other young men who were also hearing God’s call in their lives and some of them shared amazing experiences about the ways that God had given them signs that they should be a priest. I remember going to Church one day and praying, rather aggravated with God. I said, “God, I’m ready to give my life to you as a priest! Why can’t you give me a sign like you gave them?” When I left the church that day, I drove down the street and as 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.” 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.
What God wants us to realize is that signs are all around us – every moment of every day. God is gently guiding us along the way of His will; guiding us to our best selves, our holiest selves. But when what we’re looking for is God to write our sign in the sky, we’re probably missing the many ways that He is already communicating to us. Maybe He is speaking through Sacred Scripture – His word! – maybe He’s communicating to us through the loving and supportive people around us; maybe He is communicating to us through a sense of peace and contentment in our hearts that serves as a kind of confirmation that the direction we’re headed is the right one.
The key is for all of us to stop dictating to God the sign we want – whether the thunder clap; the miraculous voice from heaven; the supernatural special sign; and instead, be open to actual ways that God is talking to us in the very real moments of every day and every person we meet.
A few years ago, Pope Francis reminded us that we encounter Jesus in every day moments. He said, “We find Jesus in carrying out works of mercy, giving to the body of your wounded brother or sister, because they are hungry, because they are thirsty, because they are naked or humiliated, because they are in jail, or in the hospital. Jesus asks us to take a leap of faith, towards Him, through these” every day encounters. We encounter God in the everyday moments of our lives; and He is speaking to us in and through these moments. He is speaking to you right now in this church, through this Mass, if only we quiet our hearts to listen and open our eyes to see.
For me, when I stopped dictating to God what signs I would like Him to perform, I realized that He was giving me signs all the time – through my Mother who prayed her rosary every day that I might become a priest; through my second grade teacher, Sr. Louise, who regularly told me, “You know, Tommy, you’d make a wonderful priest.” Through my saintly grandfather who gave witness to a life lived for God. And through my own heart which has always found its deepest peace and God’s clearest voice in the celebration of the Eucharist. God speaks to our hearts here.
And so, as we ask God today the same question as the disciples, “What sign will there be?” let us remember, that the signs are all around us. We only have to pray that God will open our eyes so that we might see them, open our ears so that we might hear them, open our hearts so that we might welcome them; and then have the courage to follow where He leads us.
Lord, give us a sign.
May the Lord give you peace.
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