So, I have continued to read Matthew, taking the time to think through what I have read at leisure. (This is a real pleasure and rarity, indeed.) As I have said before, I think Matthew is a great gospel. This week I stopped at the very beginning of Chapter 16, i.e. I did not get very far at all. The verses that stopped me are ones that have often puzzled me -- not the verses themselves so much but the verses of yesteryear counterposed to the behavior, thinking, and even happenings of today. The topic is discernment, and that, too, has been something I have struggled with, so for a number of reasons, I stopped right here:
Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.
2 He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’;
3 and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.
4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.
Reading: Matthew 16:1-4
Meditation: OK, so I "get" a few things here. I get that Jesus is foreshadoing/foretelling his own death -- three days of darkness in the tomb (like Jonah in the belly of the way) -- and resurrection. I get that this will be the only "proof" of his being the Messiah/Christ, and I cannot imagine that any other "proof" would ever be needed.
What I don't get is the comment about signs. Almost everyone I know who is in the process of discernment asks for a sign that they are going in the right direction. In fact, I did this just two weeks ago. I had turned down a promotion because I did not believe that God wanted me to take it. Logic seemed to indicate that I should stay where I am. Intuition seemed to indicate that I should stay where I am. But others kept whispering to me that I should take it? Were these whispers from God or Satan, or just compliments and desires of others? I felt I needed to know when a co-worker I trusted sat me down and talked to me about how disappointed she and others were in my lack of desire for the appointment (promotion). So, in a final effort at discernment I asked God to put the right words in the mouth of this colleague, and then I called her the next day to raise the topic again. She told me that my words the day before had given her peace with my decision. So, I took this as a sign that I was moving in the right direction. Is this really bad or wrong? Or is it unrelated to the comment made by Jesus here about signs? Was he only referring to a sign of whether he was/is what he said he was?
Therein lies my confusion. Any thoughts?
Contemplation: That is far as I can go with you this Monday morning. I now retire to private prayer to
thank God for leading me as openly as He does, to repent if I have wrongly asked for help in discernment via "signs" of some sort, to praise Him for His willingness to intervene in my life in whatever manner works, and to ask Him to help me become better at discernment (to notice the timing of the red sky).
I will leave you now to your prayer and contemplation. First, though, I would like to bring to your attention a Monday morning prayer post that you might enjoy:
Fr. Austin Fleming, priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and pastor in Concord, Massachusetts, posts a prayer each Monday morning that he calls "Monday Morning Offering." I enjoy his prayers very much. I think you also will find them inspirational. He has graciously given me permission to include a link to his blog on my Monday Morning Meditation posts. (During the week, he also posts great homilies and other thoughtful discussions. I enjoy reading those, too, as do readers of this blog who have taken the stroll over to his blog.)
For additional inspiration throughout the week, I would point out two sets of blogs: (1) the list of devotional blogs on my sidebar and (2) my blogroll, where I am following a number of inspirational priests and writers about spiritual matters. I learn so very much from all these people. I highly recommend them to you.