Signs of God

8 March 2006: Wednesday of the 1st Week of Lent
Luke 11, 29-32: The Signs

Yesterday and today, I received text messages about Surigao del Norte. The text messages tell us that strange and unusual things are happening in Surigao: heavy downpour, a very low tide, water is 7 kilometers away from the shore, and classes are suspended because the residents fear a tsunami. In addition, a woman appeared at Lipata Elementary School, blood tears falling from her eyes, asking the children who only saw her, to pray because a volcano was about to erupt. The text says that there was also a woman who appeared at St. Bernard, before the landslide in Leyte. Are these signs of an impending disaster? Should we heed the signs?

We all have a fascination for extraordinary signs: things that defy the laws of nature such as apparitions, magic and miracles; things that would give us a glimpse of the future and what it holds for us such as horoscopes, fortune tellers, or what many ordinary teenagers do: open a bible at random to determine God’s mind. We are no different from the Pharisees who wanted Jesus to perform sensational signs before they believe.

The saints and the wise teach us that we do not need to look for the extraordinary to find God. Each tree, flower and fruit reflects God’s presence. And each event today is, as Vatican II calls, a “sign of the times.” We are asked to see God moving in all things and all events.

But Jesus teaches us that the greater manifestations of God’s presence are people. Jonah was the sign of God to the people of Nineveh: they listened and repented, and they were saved. Solomon was the sign of God’s wisdom, and the Queen of Sheba came from afar to listen to him. When a Queen assents to what she has heard, her whole people assents with her too. Our parents and those who love us are presences of God in our lives. And we came to believe in God because of them. Daniel Berrigan SJ said that "the tragic beauty of the face of God shines in the face of man."

But the greatest manifestation of God is Jesus Himself. In other words, if you want to know what God wants, then turn your eyes to Jesus and you will know. If you want to see God himself, then open your eyes and see Jesus. We do not need to search the deepest corner or travel far to find God. We have the privilege to know Jesus through the bible. We have the privilege to feel and love Jesus through the sacraments.

In this season of Lent, let our theme be about finding God in all things: extraordinary or ordinary signs. St. Peter Claver SJ exhorts us, “Seek God in all things and we shall find God by our side.”

Let me end with Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ* who wrote a poem that tells us that the world is charged with God’s Grandeur:

The world is charged with the grandeur of Gd.

It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;

It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil

Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?

Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;

And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;

And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil

Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs ---

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

*Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89) spent his brief life teaching classics in Ireland, but he is best known for his intense poetry.
*Photo by Neo Saicon SJ

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