Seeing is believing. Missouri is the show me state. I will not believe until I put my hands in the nail marks. Prove it. How often are we skeptics? Of course, we live in a world where it can be easy to get taken, and sometimes our skepticism is well-placed. The world around us is filled with people who do not have our best interest at heart, but theirs, so they do not hesitate to defraud us. And this has been going on for a long time, well, since the serpent tricked Adam and Eve.
But what has also been true for a long time is that God has loved us, and has shown us over and over that he loves us, he cares for us, he wants to save us. And in spite of this, we doubt. Show us again, God. Do this miraculous thing one more time, and then we will believe. I know you have promised this, but I want to test you one more time, Lord. I need a sign.
And this is common. And God does give us signs. I remember a Dominican telling me that he knew he needed to pursue becoming a Dominican because he had asked for a sign, then the next day passed a billboard that said, “This is the sign you have been looking for.” I know other such stories where God gives signs.
But is our faith based only on signs? Do we always and every time expect a sign from God? What seems to frustrate Jesus in today’s gospel is that people are always looking for a sign. More than that, there seems to be no sign that will satisfy this desire for a sign. God knows that no matter the number of signs given, there will never be enough signs.
This is, in an interesting way, the problem Jonah encounters in the first reading. He does not avoid God because he believes God will not save the Ninevites, but because he knows God will. In the next chapter Jonah says this: “I knew that you are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, abounding in kindness, repenting of punishment.” He did not want the Ninevites to be saved. Why? Because the city of Nineveh was a city that was cruel in its treatment of others. And so Jonah does not want to preach to Nineveh, because of this cruel and evil behavior.
But it is a reminder to us that no one is beyond the mercy of God. No one. No matter how deep our sin, no matter now deep our evil, there is still the chance for mercy from God if we sincerely repent. Even the hardest of hearts, which the citizens of Nineveh certainly represent can be forgiven by God.
And the gospel wants to make clear that it is Jesus who is the source of the great forgiveness. We do not need a sign because of Jesus. We do not need a sign, because Jesus is the sign. We do not need more than Jesus whose becoming man is the sign for us of the powerful love of God who can forgive even the greatest of sins.