Not through a thunderbolt or other great prodigy did God bring about the repentance of Nineveh but rather through the humble figure of his less-than-willing servant Jonah. The power of Jonah’s preaching however was not of his own making but rested in the message revealed to him by God.
Solomon was famed to be the wisest man ever known in his day. Still, the very fact of his humanity, further reinforced by his later moral laxity, detracts us from recognizing that his wisdom was not a product of his own volition but a gift of God, the rushing stream hidden beneath the marble fountain.
In today's Gospel, Jesus cautions those who are hoping for some other message (or messenger) than what God has chosen to send. It’s akin to treating the works and wonders of God like a magic trick. The best magicians stupefy us and yet we hold sure that we have simply been deceived. Surely there must be a simple explanation, natural and within the limits of human reasoning. We see the magician at work, and knowing him or her to be human, rest assured that no other agent stands behind the sleight of hand. So too with miracles, “there must be some simple scientific explanation. Why do we need to posit someone behind the scenes?”
On the other hand, we have innumerable demonstrations of God’s miraculous intervention in nature whether through the intercession of the saints or otherwise. Skeptics will press God for signs of his power which press the limits of human imagination. Withholding belief in his presence until “shown otherwise,” when the ineffable happens, they so often explain it away as a hoax. Even Israel doubted after having seen “all [God’s] works.” (Ps. 95:9)
Nonetheless, absent any grand prodigies we are left with the marvels surrounding us in nature and the simple sacramental rituals of the Church. Packaged in humble wrapping, Jesus asks us in today’s gospel to look beyond the surface of things and recognize the agent behind it all.
Small or great though the occurrences of our daily routine be, let us remember that behind it all, “something greater is here.”