Reflection on Mark 8.11-13

Most of us ascribe to the philosophy of ‘seeing is believing’. Since the dawn of the Enlightenment, that great ‘Age of Reason’ which started at the end of the 17th century, human beings have increasingly put scientific evidence ahead of faith and trust. As our God-given powers of deduction and reasoning have developed, and as our awareness and command of scientific principles have grown, we have become increasingly disengaged with the true wonders of our mortal existence. In many ways this has proved to be a matter of simple common sense, but it has also removed much of the joy and the mystery from our lives.

In today’s reading we are shown that what we consider to be our modern and sophisticated attitude to matters of faith is nothing new. Jesus, the Son of God, was walking this earth, and yet the Pharisees came and began to argue with Jesus, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. The scepticism we associate with Enlightenment thinking existed long before philosophers such as Francis Bacon, Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau put forward their arguments and theoretical speculations. 

As Jesus lived out his short life on this earth he offered us many signs, from his first at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, through to his greatest sign of all, his resurrection from the dead. As Jesus walked amongst us he defied the laws of nature, he taught and preached a whole new way of living that brought us into a closer relationship with God, and he healed the sick and the possessed. By the time we reach this moment in the gospel narrative, all of these acts have been performed. We might, therefore, be justified in asking the Pharisees who came and began to argue with Jesus what sort of signs they were seeking?

Today we are being urged to set aside our attitude to life that is rooted in the philosophy of those who are firmly aligned with the Pharisees. Today we are being reminded about the divine mystery that is our God. To have faith in God is to demonstrate a readiness to step outside the bounds of human wisdom and into the world of God’s reality, a realm that exists beyond our wildest imaginings. Let us pray for that faith, even in the smallest measure, in order that we might live out the lives we have been given through God’s generous and loving grace.