Signs play a big part in our lives. We encounter them all the time, often without even realizing it. Think, for example, of just how many road signs you encounter even on a short drive. They are all meant to stand for something else, to point out what lies ahead on the road. This is exactly why they are so important. By indicating the rules of the road and what we will soon encounter, they lead us safely to our destination.
On the other hand, if we ignore the signs or fail to understand what they indicate, we will be unprepared for what is coming. We could miss a turn, lose control or get into a collision.
In his Gospel, St. John calls Jesus’ miracles “signs.” This kind of sign reveals something about Jesus, pointing us deeper into the mystery of his life.
In last Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus performed the sign of feeding 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. In this Sunday’s Gospel, which comes shortly after the multiplication story, Jesus is making a transition. He is beginning to explain that the earthly food he just provided signifies the spiritual food to come — his body and blood in the Eucharist.
God at work
Unfortunately, however, the people do not realize that this multiplication is a sign. This is why we find them asking him for another sign, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?”
They only noticed the fact that he fed them with bread and missed the deeper meaning. Because they missed this sign, they will be unable to understand the Lord’s further teaching on the Eucharist, and so they will soon leave him altogether.
God continues to give signs to his people even today. They may not be quite so extraordinary, but they are there. An example of such a sign might be crossing paths with a friend who tells you exactly what you needed to hear at that moment. It might be as simple as a beautiful sunset that stirs your soul. It could be the witness of a man and a woman who are living a strong, holy marriage.
All of these are signs of God’s power, love and care. They are meant to lead us to God, to a deeper relationship with him that culminates in the Eucharist.
But if we are not attentive and fail to recognize these signs, we will keep asking God for more signs to “prove” himself to us. The problem with this is that even if he gives us other signs, like the people in the Gospel we will miss those just like we missed the first.
But if we are attentive to the signs of his presence in our everyday lives, we will not miss the even-greater sign of his presence in the Eucharist. The Eucharist, in turn, will reveal signs in our lives that we never noticed before. Let us ask the Lord Jesus to help us be attentive to all the signs he gives us.
Deacon Joah Ellis is in formation for the priesthood at St. Paul Seminary for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His home parish is Epiphany in Coon Rapids and his teaching parish is St. Timothy in Maple Lake.
Sunday, Aug. 5
18th Sunday in ordinary time
- Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
- Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
- John 6:24-35
Think about a time when you were attentive to a sign of God’s presence. What kind of impact did it have on your life?