"The crowds said to Jesus: 'What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?'"
People want proof that what they commit themselves to believe is true. While there is a paradox in this-- faith is an act of trust in what we cannot know for certain -- it is a logical request. What we believe should also be reasonable, not simply a shot in the dark or acquiesence to authority.
Jesus keeps drawing people back to the essence of faith, which is a relationship with some Someone in whom you put your total trust. Jesus presents himself as the face of a provident God, the one who feeds his hungry people: "I am the Bread of Life." Here is the sign they are demanding. God is the only food that can really satisfy our deepest hungers.
Today is the feast of St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109). We should not underestimate his contribution to the theology of our Catholic faith. It was Anselm who brought faith and reason together in his compelling reflections on the existence of God and the mystery of the Incarnation. We still need faith, but it is a "faith seeking understanding." The human mind is affirmed with its questions and rational pursuit of evidence for what we believe. Faith and reason are not separate powers but aspects of the same human desire and capacity to explore truth.
Anselm would inspire another great theologian, Thomas Aquinas, who a century later embraced Aristotle’s methodology as a tool to open up the questions of creation, incarnation and redemption in a comprehensive view of reality that offered a foundation for both theology and science.
Anselm, like Thomas, also knew that the mind could take us only so far, and that the heart—the intuitive and mystical capacity to pursue love to its source – was the inbuilt compass that revealed our essential nature as images of God. Jesus is the revelation of that intimate relationship we all possess as creatures, then as beloved children, from God and returning to God. Anselm wrote: “In everyone’s heart there is a place they want to go.” God is the deepest memory we carry from childhood and try to recover. Thomas withdrew from his theological labors to weep at the altar while saying Mass. His final exposition from his deathbed was on the great biblical love poem, “The Canticle of Canticles.”
We seek a sign that something this wonderful could be true. We need look no further than birdsong and the world in bloom, and then into our own hearts.