Last week’s blog on miracles just felt so incomplete to me because it lacked sufficient explanation. Now that’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? Miracles defy explanation! But I want to touch on a little of the discussion of miracles from a perspective of Church teaching. So, brace yourselves, you may not agree with this but that is totally ok.
Many of us ask: Are the miracles in Jesus’ life real? Are the ‘miracles’ of recent times real such as Lourdes, or Fatima? On and on go the questions so let me try to present a little more information on miracles.
First, theologian Gerhard Lohfink, who I used for last week’s blog, is pretty emphatic. Several times he says, “If…faith is not present, the miracle cannot happen.” Study carefully, if you will, the stories of the healing miracles of Jesus and you will see that not only is faith present in the one to be healed, but Jesus acknowledges that faith to the witnesses present. Second, Jesus never performs a miracle for himself. This is important Lohfink says, because there were many charlatans and magicians who called themselves healers in order to amass followers and make money from their false demonstrations. All this being said, there are theologians who say that the subject of a miracle need not be a person of faith but, perhaps, the intercessor or advocate for such a person is a believer. He or she effects the miracle itself through their faith in Christ.
Miracles can be defined as those that heal physical afflictions (sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, freedom from leprosy and illnesses), those that quell natural challenges (calming the storm, changing water into wine, feeding the thousands, etc.) and those that challenge evil (dispelling demons, forgiving sinners, etc.). A question that remains is what about apparitions in the modern era? Technically, apparitions are not miracles; many are phenomena and probably none have direct, physical contact with Jesus. Some, however, are signs of God’s care and mercy and some theologians argue that such are truly miracles. These might include visions such as at Lourdes and Fatima. I agree that these events can be considered miraculous because of the ‘signs’ they manifest for all people of God. The Church does exhaustive research and study on specific claims to miracles in order to be sure of their authenticity. Otherwise, we could have legions of people believing in the phenomenal and not in God’s sign and message that a miracle must contain.
The point is, as Lohfink says, events can be miracles if in them “(Jesus) confronts the powers of chaos, conquers demons, heals the damaged and distorted world, so that the sign of God may become visible, and creation may attain to the integrity and beauty God intends for it.”
Let’s face it. You and I want miracles. We find it almost impossible to accept the end of life a loved one is facing. We find it overwhelming to endure the alienation of a friend or relative who has simply decided to leave us, to refuse to speak much less care for us. We anxiously pray and yearn for reconciliation between two people who are seeking divorce or separation. We cannot abide the evil of chaos in our world of divided governments and divided churches.
But I think there is something we can do to bring the miraculous into the midst of chaos. I believe we can be the miracles. This is not an inflated egotistical measurement of oneself; in fact, it takes quite a bit of humility to try and be someone’s miracle. You might get rejected. You will be incorrectly judged. But think about it. You cannot cure the person who is dying but you can encourage her about the life to come. Without sounding pious, you can walk with her to the gate, hold her hand, whisper positive encouragement. Tell her you are with her, and you love her. Be affirming. You can also walk with someone who is divorcing or separating from a spouse. You can try to bring peace to their anxiety by offering a helping hand. After years of alienation from her brother, a friend told me she prayed extra hard asking for guidance toward healing. Her brother called a while ago and asked for a meeting. It went well. They are reconciled. Was this a miracle? She and I both think so knowing the extreme circumstances that brought about the separation. I think their children see it as a sign—true evidence of the miraculous.
For this week ask yourself: Where can I be a healing agent for someone? Where can I help be part of a miracle in someone’s life?
Take the time to recognize where miracles might be occurring in your life and how they may require you to participate.
I am a big believer in miracles. For the many people who are told they will never walk again or never have children and sure enough they prove the physicians wrong. When the dog who has been lost for months/years returns home. All miracles !
To me miracles are like angels. We are surrounded by miracles and angels♥️.
Thank you Sister Mary Ann for your beautiful thought provoking article on miracles.
In love and friendship
Isn’t the Resurrection a miracle? If so, isn’t our faith founded upon a miracle? And its spread miraculous? For me, for deny the miraculous is to shortchange my faith.
I agree. The Resurrection is a miracle. And, yes, to deny the miraculous is to ‘shortchange one’s faith.’ I’m thinking that’s why Jesus says so often, “Your faith has healed you.” Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Diane. S. Mary Ann