Exodus 14:5-18
Matthew 12:38-42


Signs. Lots of people are looking for signs to help give their life direction; in today’s first reading and Gospel signs from God feature.

In the first reading from Exodus, Pharaoh changed his mind about setting the Israelites free. So, he prepared his best troops and chariots to pursue them and bring them back to Egypt. They catch up with them at the place where God told the Israelites to camp. When the Israelites saw them, they became terrified and complained bitterly to Moses because he had led them to a place where there was no way of escape for them. Moses told them not to fear, for God was about to do a mighty work.

Though the Israelites were criticising Moses, they were really showing a lack of faith in God. They had already seen God’s power in the plagues, but their fear made them forget what had happened. They appear to have completely forgotten the misery of slavery from which they cried to be freed and God’s deliverance.

Moses tells the Israelites to stand firm and see what God is about to do for them. He wants them to realise that their freedom from slavery was not their own doing but that of God. “Stand firm, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you today.”

Today in the Gospel, Jesus wants to point us away from spectacular signs. Faith in Jesus is what keeps us going.

The Pharisees and scribes come to Jesus and say: “We want to see a sign from you!” They wanted to see how Jesus fitted to their categories. However, Jesus refuses to give them a sign.  He tells them that it is “an evil and unfaithful generation” that needs a “sign” in order to believe.  He then says: “No sign except the sign of Jonah will be given!”

Jonah was a reluctant prophet who resisted the call of God to speak to the Gentiles, to enter into the world of the other, the foreigner, those unlike ourselves. Jonah was in the belly of the sea monster for three days and three nights. The Son of Man will be in the grave for three days and three nights. The greatest sign given would be Jesus’ resurrection.

This is the only sign we should need: Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. This sign tells us of the great love that God has for us.

Joanne McGrath is a parishioner of St Brigid’s Marrickville and a Passionist Companion.

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