How Many Signs?

BY KELLY SWAN | February 21, 2018

“How many signs does our country need before we do something?”

The homily at Mass Sunday morning was, in part, about the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

My twelve-year-old was an altar server that morning, and she has a very expressive face. I knew as soon as the homily began that I had misstepped in not thoroughly explaining what had happened the previous Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School prior to Mass.

So, on Sunday evening, the vibrant chaos of the day with younger siblings had faded away and we were in the car on our way to the theater for a performance in downtown Cleveland. I had to explain the unthinkable to my twelve-year-old.

She was quite young when one of the other most deadly school shootings occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. She doesn’t remember that, but I do. She was six—the same age as those children who were killed.

Somehow, between Wednesday and Sunday, she’d also caught wind of the Sandy Hook tragedy, and asked me about the first graders who were killed. 

Anxious, stunned, angry—she asked: “well, how many signs does our country need before we do something?”

How many signs, indeed.

Isn’t 26 enough? Or even 17?

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus calls out the Pharisees and Scribes for their continuous demands for a sign from him, proof that he was the Son of God, because the signs and miracles he was providing were not enough.

It is easy to see the Pharisees and Scribes in our society today. What sign will we need as proof that change is required to build a society that more closely resembles the Kingdom of God—where our most vulnerable members are protected, where personal liberty does not trump the safety of children?

There are powerful voices from the generation coming of age today—a generation that has lost or feared for their own or their peers’ lives—asking “well, how many signs does our country need before we do something?”

May we, like the king of Nineveh, heed the blatant signs.

[This reflection was originally published as part of ISN’s 2018 Lenten Series: Break Forth.]

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