Signs and Wonders Twenty Eighth Week Ordinary Time 2010 The Sign Of Jonah

Scripture readings from the Mass for today are here
The Gospel and reflections are below.
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”


Today's gospel prompts me to pay attention and be grateful to have seen signs and wonders in my life,for they have been there if I only care to stop, look and listen : 
Some may be small, some big, some I never even realised the significance of at the time. 

They all make me grateful for having faith in God and as I grow older I am more able to relinquish the hold I have on so many of  the illusory things that I wrongly perceive to be important, and more importantly to hand over to God what I cannot control. 

I have been so fortunate to have been born to a life where I am not materially hungry or thirsty. I have seen the awful squalor of poverty and the way that hope may be extinguished when basic needs of life are not met due to the greed and abuse of power by those who should know better.
When I was on holiday  I saw some exquisite signs of the beauty that man is capable of- my previous post showed the Alhambra which was built over several centuries by Muslims and Christians and is a testament to the glory of creation that extols the creator.

It saddens me to think that we cannot seem to co-exist peacefully these days.
Sometimes it is hard not to be discouraged by the intolerance between faiths  and the endless lust for power for control of land and resources that leads to  wars and struggles where the innocent suffer and so many are left destitute or their lives are destroyed.

So it ever was- so many civilisations have sought signs and wonders and then have somehow fallen into a way that distorts the vision of God.

I  visited the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca when on holday- the third largest mosque in the world after Mecca and Medina with the tallest minaret in the world. 

It is an amazing place
It even projects a laser light into the evening sky in the direction of Mecca- a powerful sign to God's continuing presence in the world. 

( I took this photo on the left  as we were leaving the port - you can just about see the beam of green light in the centre of the photo coming from the top of the minaret.)
 I was struck by the irony that the ground zero site in New York also has a laser light projected into the sky in memory of those who died at the hands of fanatical Muslims.

What is the point of these lights blazing in the darkness if they do not cure our blindness to the wonder of God in all faiths ? 

How I wish these signs and wonders would bring us to peaceful co-existence  and  mutual  understanding instead of hatred .
Surprisingly, the mosque allows non Muslims including women to enter the mosque, albeit only for a guided tour and not during Ramadan.

These signs and wonders attract many visitors from all over the globe, people of all faiths or none. 
What do we gain or lose by these sights ? What impact do these have on our lives ? 

I know I was inspired by these sights but within half a mile of the mosque there are slums with appalling deprivation and in 2003 and 2007 suicide bombers caused many deaths in Casablanca.

These were not aimed at Westerners but at their own government because the people living here saw no hope in their situation.(the Moroccan government have pledged to remove these slums by 2012 and replace them with decent housing but what I saw would suggest that there is still a long way to go. 

This is just one place in one country and there are countless instances of the same or similar, in many countries. 
It is hard to persevere , hard to hold onto the signs and wonders of God's presence in the world but they are there.

In Casblanca we were stopped and welcomed in the medina by several people, who smiled and wanted to shake our hands, to welcome us to their country.

I was moved by how warm and genuine these gestures were. 
Outside the mosque I chatted to a young muslim student who was eager to speak to me. ) She is on the left of the photo and initially was reluctant to be photographed.

Yet I also know that I am seen as an infidel by a minority of Muslims who would not hesitate to kill me just because of my faith.
Meanwhile there are squabbles over the proposed siting of a Muslim Community Centre in New York near the site of Ground Zero.
 My own feelings are that it is vital that non fanatical members of the Christian and Muslim faith need to witness together and engage in ventures like this to overcome the bigotry and stereotyped views we hold of each other. 

I was surprised by the reception we had in Casablanca and although my short chat with a young Muslim student was only a drop in the chaotic waters of hatred that surround us in the world, it left me with hope; that we can change our world with small gestures, small steps, small beginnings.

Yes, Signs and wonders............. 
They are there !!
So I pray today's Psalm with confidence.
From the rising to the setting of the sun
is the name of the LORD to be praised.

High above all nations is the LORD;

Above the heavens is his glory.
Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.
Who is like the LORD, our God,
 who looks upon the heavens and the earth below?
He raises up the lowly from the dust;
from the dunghill he lifts up the poor.
Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.
Oh,  and lest I forget .... Let us all be still for the presence of the Lord...

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