Signs are meant to convey information. In today's world, we normally think of signs as objects - sometimes stationary, sometimes moving. Whether location (Main Street), information (Sale!!), direction (one way) or identification (Starbucks), signs are a means of communication. At times, we also may consider events to be signs, whether a sign of affection or a sign that the world is falling apart. In the time of Jesus, however, people were also considered to be signs. Occasionally elevated to the status of "prophet", some people were considered to be the means of communication between God and humanity. Elijah was perhaps the best known of these signs. Even his departure from the earth (remember the flaming chariot?) was a sign that he would return to announce the coming of the Messiah.
In today's Gospel, Jesus acknowledges that John the Baptist is a sign as well. In fact, he calls him Elijah. And since Jesus is God, I guess we can be assured that he knew exactly what this sign was supposed to communicate. Some read the sign correctly, others did not. In the end, Jesus proved by his life, death and resurrection that John was indeed the sign of the coming of the Messiah.
We don't hear much about prophets today, except when some one who has mental health issues claims to be one. And we do not think of people as being signs that God uses to communicate with us. We often ask God for a sign, but that usually means we want a clear message, spelled out in great detail. We probably all secretly yearn for God to talk to us directly, as some movies have used as a premise.
But maybe we should adjust our thinking about signs. How often has someone taken the time to talk to you and brought you a sense of peace? Who in your life gave you wise advice that you still try to follow each day? What warnings did a respected friend or family member give you that saved you a lot of problems? Maybe God never changed the way He used people as signs, but rather people just stopped paying attention. Maybe God is using people to communicate with us just as often as in the past, but we are not looking or listening. Maybe, just maybe, God is sending a sign to you today. The question is: will you see it?