Have you ever tried to help someone who would not listen to what you were really saying? They only heard what they wanted to hear, if anything at all. Usually, it's something that gives them an excuse to disbelieve you.
It's so very frustrating, isn't it? We want to do good for them, but they deafen their ears or they misconstrue our intent or they twist our meaning to suit their purposes.
When this happens, how do you feel? "Frustrated" yes, but that's not all. There's something icky about it. We feel torn between giving up and trying one more time. We pray for the other person, but we wish we could find the magic words that would finally break through whatever's shrouding that person's mind.
That's probably how Jesus felt in today's Gospel story. The Pharisees' reason for requesting a sign was not motivated by a hope that Jesus was the Messiah. They were asking for an argument. If they truly wanted to believe in him, they would have been converted by the many previous signs they had already witnessed.
In this scripture, Jesus shows us what to do when people argue with us. If they're not asking questions that would help them understand what we've said, they're not interested in learning something new from us. Debating them is pointless and will only cause hurt and further division.
Like Jesus, we have to walk away from the argument. Our words are not helping them. The most caring thing we can do is to climb into our boats, like Jesus, and paddle to the other side of the sea to find people who are ready to listen -- people who ask questions for the sake of discovering the truth, people who are humble enough to believe that they don't have all the answers nor see the full picture.
It's not easy to walk away from an argument when we're trying to help. It hurts to see people continue to suffer from the lies and misconceptions they believe. That's okay; we're not supposed to like it -- we care. But walking away is not quitting. We'll continue to pray for their conversion to the truth, and we'll show by our lives the truth of our words.
It might take many years and hard troubles before they'll be ready to listen, but never despair. God wants to help them even more than you do, and he's not finished with them. God will not allow them to die before they're ready to spend eternity with him, because you are praying for them in the spirit of his love.
Remember, even some Pharisees became believers in Jesus. It was a Pharisee who donated his tomb to the crucified Lord.