The Daily Word: Of Spirits and Signs

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Today’s Gospel is a short one – and a challenging one too:

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus,
seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.
He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said,
“Why does this generation seek a sign?
Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”
Then he left them, got into the boat again,
and went off to the other shore.
What are we to make of this?
I think a helpful first move may be to put the terms “spirit” and “sign” alongside each other.  Mark uses the classic “pneuma” for spirit: there is the sense that Jesus’ frustration stems from the very depths of his being.  At the same time, Mark does not use the word for “sign” that is largely associated with miracles: he eschews “dynameis,” and instead uses “semeion.”  Semeion has the sense of being just a sign: not something that necessarily points to something greater.*
Where I am going with this?  I admit, I’m not particularly sure, but my initial inclination is that there is something here that may provide a  very helpful meditation for our spiritual lives.  The question, then, is this: have we plumbed the deeps of our relationship with God’s Christ, attempting to reach the place where the Word sighs, or are we looking for a surface relationship whereby we see great signs, but refuse to enter in the Pasch of that same Christ?
It’s a tough question for a Monday morning, but a valuable one precisely because it puts its metaphorical finger on a tendency of religious professionals to, in all of our rushing about, seek or preach cosmetic holiness, rather than the pursuit of the inner reaches of the Spirit of the Living God.
* See The Gospel of Mark, Donahue and Harrington, Sacra Pagina Series, pp. 247-251.

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