Click here to read the reflection
The Gospel – Matthew 12 verses 38 to 42
38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.”
39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.
When I looked at the gospel reading for today I thought – this looks familiar – and sure enough it is the same reading I have reflected on for the third Monday in July both in 2020 and 2021- so I hope you will not mind re-visiting last year’s in particular.
Whenever I think about signs from God, I think about the Ignatian Prayer of Examen -the reflective prayer that helps us to look back over a period of time – a day – a week – a month – whatever we choose – and try to discern the signs of God’s presence in our lives.
God is always with us, in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary – but we don’t always notice him or see his signs. Many of you by now will be familiar with this prayer – but in case it might be new to you – or as a refresher – I thought today was a good opportunity to have a quiet reflection and see where we have seen the signs of God in our lives over the past day or so.
So first of all, choose somewhere comfortable to be, where you won’t be disturbed and take some time to become still. Choose something like listening to all the sounds you can hear around you for a few minutes, or focussing on your breathing or concentrating on the different sensations you can feel in your body.
When you feel ready, become aware of God’s presence with you and review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights. Focus on the day’s gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and other seemingly small pleasures. God is in the details.
Ask for God’s light and pray that he will show you what has been most significant. Gently notice what catches your attention. There is no need to work too hard at remembering every single thing – let what will emerge.
Now reflect on your feelings during the day. Notice particularly moments of life, energy, joy, love, compassion – these are feelings Ignatius calls being “drawn towards God”. Notice too moments that seemed drained of life, full of confusion, distress or dis-ease or when you felt you were being drawn away from God.
And then, ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to one thing during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may involve a feeling—positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Go deeper into this moment. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.
How did you react to it at the time? How might you want to respond to God about it now? What would you want to say to him? What is he saying to you? The Ignatian way here is “to talk with Jesus as you would with a friend”.
End your prayer, by looking forward and ask God to give you light for tomorrow. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask him for help and understanding. Pray for hope.
I hope, as you pray this prayer, that you will notice how God has been with you at different times during the day even though you may not have been fully aware of him at the time. Unlike the Pharisees who were asking Jesus to perform a sign to order – in re-living his presence with us over the day we see that Jesus himself is the sign – present always in our lives.
Collect for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity
Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified:
hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.