1st S. Lent 2021: Gimme A Sign!

Today’s homily is for the 1st Sunday of Lent, February 21, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

You may remember the pop group, Ace of Base. One of their more popular songs was called, “The Sign.” I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes / I saw the sign / Life is demanding without understanding / I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes / I saw the sign. Those words are very true and speak of our need for a sign.

Jesus begins his public ministry with the words, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus both announces and inaugurates the Kingdom of God. The first chapter of Mark’s Gospel announces this Good News and the whole rest of the Gospel delivers the signs that are evidence of this truth. 

A sign points to the truth of something that can sometimes be difficult to see, or hard to remember during difficulties and trial. As Ace of Base points out, “I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes,” which of course leads to a fuller understanding and peace in spite of present circumstances. A sign helps us to know, to remember, and to live in response to that truth. For Noah and his generation, the sign of God’s care and covenant was the rainbow. When we look to the sky and see the sign we remember God’s covenant and find peace.

Signs matter; the bow for Noah, and Jesus’ life, miracles, and healing that the Kingdom is in our midst. God uses signs to reveal his love and covenant relationships–because we need to be reminded regularly that God’s love endures: through plagues, pandemics, drought, and flooding, through earthquakes, sadness, sickness, and death…we need a reminder. Signs aren’t just for Noah and Jesus, we all need signs, and need to provide signs of our love to others!

I remember all the cards and flowers I bought for my wife as I earnestly pursued her, and when she finally said yes I put a ring on her finger as the sign of our eternal bond…and I am a bit embarrassed to say that the number of times that I have bought flowers and chocolate since then can be counted on one hand. I mean, she knows I love her, right? Does she really need all that stuff? Actually, today is Jill’s birthday; she knows I love her, do I really need to get her a gift? Of course all the ladies out there are saying, “Yes!” And the guys are turning a bit red from guilt. Signs matter. My wife and I have been in a covenant bond for almost seventeen years, but signs matter as much now as they ever did; flowers, a hug, a kiss, a letter or card, date nights, or a thinking-of-you Starbucks once in a while! She’ll say she doesn’t need it, but it always feels nice. I need to remember. She needs a sign. Rainbows matter.

Is it any different with our children? My kids don’t ever get tired of signs of our love–good morning hugs and kisses, gestures of kindness, and cuddles in the evening. Even as kids get older and parents become “cringy,” they still enjoy the signs of our love. And it is especially important for kids–dad’s listen up! Because we’re so busy with formation of hearts and minds, attitudes, and responsibility (the necessary and good work of parenting), discipline and tough love are sometimes the order of the day. But discipline feels like earthquakes and destruction, fire and floods! We know it is for their formation toward holiness and sainthood, but it can sometimes feel to them that they are not loved. So discipline is not enough. That’s not Godly. Godliness is discipline and signs of covenant love. Give ’em a sign. 

We too must be equally dedicated to signs of love and concern for others. During the season of Lent, we learn to be more like God. Signs of love are a good place to start. Start with those closest to you–your parents, children, your wife or husband. Almsgiving might start with those closest to you but it must extend to people we don’t know–generosity toward strangers; people we don’t know but need a sign. That’s Godly. And that’s what we’re supposed to be.

I want to encourage you this week to be like God the Father, be like Jesus, and give ’em a sign. No matter how small it might seem, it makes a great impact. I need to go buy a card and flowers! You probably should too.

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