Superstitious people tend to live by signs. If their horoscope urges caution, they won’t go outside that day. If they find a four-leaf clover or see a cloud shaped a certain way, they might feel good about a particular decision. All this may sound innocent enough, but if you think about it, it’s really based on fear. Superstitious people can’t do anything without a sign. And when they do take action, quite often it’s based on something irrational.
The crowd in today’s gospel had a similar problem. Looking into their hearts, Our Lord saw that many of them were seeking a sign, not so that they could bolster their faith, but so that they could simply feel better. It’s as if they were trying to use Our Lord as a supernatural good-luck charm who would magically transform their lives without requiring much from them. And so Our Lord responded to them sternly, not out of cruelty but compassion. He saw that these people were missing the greatest sign of all—himself—and that in missing him, they remained bound by their fears.
If the truth be told we have all looked for signs at times, and for different reasons. Sometimes we want a confirmation that the path we’ve chosen is really the best one. Sometimes we just need to know that God is with us—and we hope for some kind of miracle to prove it. God does love to help us out, and sometimes he does so in spectacular ways. But he also wants us to grow in faith by acting on what he has already given us. He wants us to place our trust in him rather than in any display of his power.
Signs are a good thing. They help our faith. But we have already received thousands of signs, with Our Lord’s Cross and Resurrection at the head of the list. We don’t need another sign or miracle to convince us to trust in God: we have already received one. We have been given a living relationship with the Son of God. We are free to ask him for whatever we need. But be sure as well to believe that whatever the outcome, he has promised to remain with us always.