Seeing is (not) believing

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16 October 2017

Do you find yourself relying on what you see to direct your beliefs? Maybe you even believe that ‘seeing is believing’?

Everyone from time to time relies on personal experience to give certainty to his or her beliefs. This is precisely what the contemporary culture urges us to do. When it comes to faith, this reliance on experiencing God to give rise to faith is not just important to the contemporary Church, but was a desire felt by those closest to Christ.

Today’s Gospel tells us of a crowd of people gathered around Christ, ready to perceive a sign of God’s working, maybe even a miracle, that would prove Jesus is who he says he is.

Jesus’ response to those crowded around Him was a simple insistence that faith need only depend on a personal relationship with Him. In Christ, God has become a man, and through Christ, all can encounter the Father.

The crowds need a shift in their perspective. They were too busy looking ‘outside.’ Jesus calls us to look ‘inside’ into the depths of our hearts to see the workings of grace in our lives. St Augustine says ‘our hearts are restless until they rest in you.’ Looking for ‘signs’ outside of Christ will not lead to faith that fulfils the desires of our hearts.

The comparison that Jesus draws is with Jonah. Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites who called for a conversion of their hearts. Inspired by the witness of Jonah, the Ninevites were moved to this conversion, seen in their repentance to God.

The story of Jonah is one of a disobedient prophet who was swallowed by a giant fish and emerges after three days. Following this, Jonah repents and has a reorientation of his heart. This conversion gives Jonah a new identity and a new mission to proclaim the message of Salvation to all. It was in living out this mission that Jonah converted the great city of Nineveh.

Jesus says that the only sign to be given, the only sign we need, is that of death and resurrection. Jonah experienced a form of resurrection after spending three days in the belly of the fish. As Jesus says, ‘something greater than Jonah is here.’  This is Jesus foreshadowing his death, only to be raised to life again, the greatest sign of faith.

Let us pray that our faith may not rest on signs outside of Christ, but in a deep and personal encounter with Christ. May our belief in God be based not on what we see, but on the conviction of our hearts in the resurrection and life ever after.
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