I do not watch much television – although I like to pick and choose what I watch on You Tube. One of the things that irks me, however, is the number of frivolous things that people are encouraged to seek through certain prayers or rituals. “This prayer IS ALWAYS answered by God; pray THIS PRAYER and Our Lady will work a miracle for you in the next few days! THIS PRAYER will NEVER fail! IF YOU SCROLL PAST THIS God won’t forgive you because you ignored him, and so on. A great number of these film strips, blogs and pod casts (to my mind) are based on fear, superstition and offering a suitable bribe to God and the Blesseds.
When Jesus criticizes people for asking for a sign, he answered, “I’m the only sign you’re going to get.” Most people were asking him for a sign from heave to prove who he was. He said to the disciples of John the Baptist who were sent to ask him who he really was. ‘Are you the one to come or do we have to wait for someone else?’ Jesus answered, ‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to new life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor and happy is the one who does not lose faith in me’. (Matthew 11: 3 – 5).
The Scriptural proof of the Messiah was the ability to forgive sins and the ability to work miracles. In other words, ‘I’m the only sign you’re going to get. But for most, that wasn’t enough.
I do think you can ask God for a sign. Just make sure it is sensible. Add on the words of Jesus, ‘….your will be done!’ (Matthew 26: 42). Remember, too, we often ask for things that we really shouldn’t. Allow God also to have a sense of humour. ‘Blessed is the one who does not lose faith in me’. (Matthew 11: 5). Sometimes God says, ‘No’ with good reason.
I will tell you two stories. When I was a child, I used to love to watch on the new TV Ven. Archbishop Fulton Sheen. (Sister thought I was so very clever!)
It was rumoured in the Archbishop’s area that the Pope was going to make someone a Cardinal. Archbishop Sheen thought that it would be him. But the announcement was made, and it was someone else. Archbishop Sheen was so disappointed that he went into a dark depression. He dreamed of being so close to the Vicar of Christ, but he wasn’t chosen!
One of the favourite places Archbishop Sheen loved to pray was Lourdes. So, he got a ticket and flew off to Lourdes. He also had a lovely relationship with Our Lady.
Each late evening, he would walk around the grounds of Lourdes and because it was a mountainous region fog used to roll in over the Pyrenees. After a time he began coming out of his disappointment and depression, so he asked God to give him a sign that God was happy with his life and ministry. The sign he asked for was that out of the fog, a little girl dressed in white First Communion clothes, would run up to him and present him with a white rose. And so, it happened! He packed his bags next morning and went back to his Archdiocese. Who would want a silly red biretta when you could be given a white rose from God? He never asked God for a sign again! That story was about God’s ability to surprise.
The next story is about God’s ability to shock – as it were, to kill two birds with the one stone! A woman asked God to give her a sign about something important in her faith life. He could ask of her anything he liked in return, but she still wanted a sign.
She was out one night, and it was getting late. She decided that she was hungry and would stop at the next 7Eleven and buy some food. As she drove up to the 7Eleven store a voice whispered in her ear. ‘You promised me anything I liked if I would give you a sign. Well, this is what I want!’ ‘I want you to go into the 7Eleven store and STAND ON YOUR HEAD! So, feeling very embarrassed she entered the store and stood on her head.
Suddenly the proprietor came out of the back room of the store and began screaming. She ran up to the woman on her head and cried and shook all over.
When she got control of herself once again, she told the head stander that she had asked God for a sign. The sign was to be someone standing on their head in her store!
If you ask God for a sign, it might not be as you dreamed it would be. God does have a sense of humour and likes to use it occasionally. Faith doesn’t always have to be serious. If you ask God for a sign, he may ask you for one too. Be careful what you ask for because God likes to tease his children, sometimes!
Kevin Tuitu’u, C.P. Member of the Marrickville Community.