Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation."
Then he left them, got into the boat again,
and went off to the other shore.
Occasionally escaping from the narrow world in which I live, by way of reading or NPR, I hear people speak of God as an energy or power. God, in their minds, is mysterious and unknown but not impenetrable. This "energy" is benevolent; it "bends toward justice"; it rewards kindness and punishes wickedness. Despite its inscrutability, it is not entirely unpredictable. We can manage it.
That's not the picture of Jesus we find in scripture. In today's gospel, "he left them... and went off to the other shore." He would not argue with his opponents any more; he would not offer them any more opportunities for a change of heart, remorse or repentance. He was tired of them. Enough is enough.
Lent begins in two days; it is time for us to relent. We must examine our habits, attitudes, minds and hearts and consider how we might take for granted the mercy of God.
Not many years ago, large congregations would meditate on the physical suffering of Jesus, often in maudlin detail, as they labored to put away every presumption about God's mercy. They pondered his betrayal, arrest and trial; his torture and torment; his patient silence and the few words he spoke during the ordeal; his carrying the cross despite his weakness; his failing strength, loss of blood, and final expiration. They considered that the Son of God died for their very particular sins.
Jesus shows us the face of God; it is a human face that can express sadness, disappointment, weariness and despair. His is not the blank, featureless face of a monolith. He is not stoic, impassive and superior to every emotion. Attentive to us, his face can reflect disappointment and delight, frustration and satisfaction, pain and pleasure in our company.
The human child becomes a person as she interacts with other people. She watches their reactions even as she discovers her own. Occasionally she realizes with astonishment, "They were right! And I was wrong!" If she never encounters resistance, refusal, disappointment and frustration in others she might not mature as a true person.
The Christian is formed in a Christian household, reacting and responding to other people; and especially to the Lord's face, revealed in a Christian congregation.
If Lent tells us anything, it tells us we cannot assume we know "God." We know nothing of God if we do not know how our habits, attitudes and some relationships have offended him. If we have not seen that in his face, we'd better look again.