Sunday, March 6, 2011
I am dealing with an adult child who is a bit of a skeptic. We were watching the scene from Jesus of Nazareth where He raises Lazarus from the dead, and she asked me a question that I confess crossed my mind once or twice when I was where she is now, and that is: Why do these things not happen anymore?
First, miracles do happen. They just don't always happen with the drama we think they should. Sometimes, we ask for a miracle, and we get one, but it's not the miracle we are expecting, so we think that God let us down and didn't hear us. At others, we may not even have asked for a miracle, but our own blindness prevents us from seeing that one indeed took place.
The explanation I gave my daughter is that Jesus did those things to help others believe that He was the Son of God. He didn't come into the world with the fanfare that was expected of the Messiah. If we put ourselves in the place of the people at the time He came into the world, we can understand why something dramatic might have been needed to bolster their faith. Now that those things have taken place and we have the Gospels to remind us that they did, we have an advantage they did not. We also know that behind every miracle Jesus performed, there was a message more important than the miracle itself. So while we don't have Him in our midst literally raising the dead before our eyes, we have the Eucharist to strengthen us so that we can pray and work for the more important miracles, like seeing Christ upon our departure from this world.
Sometimes, I feel for the scribes and the pharisees. Jesus rocked their world and turned everything they were comfortable with upside down. It had to be unsettling. But this is the sort of thing that happens when man places a human expectation on God. Then man may not be prepared to accept what God chooses to send instead. It's also what happens when we begin to think we're actually more important than God is.
About ten years ago, while away from the Catholic faith, I was in D.C. for the weekend and I went to the Episcopal Church nearest to the White House. The young minister gave a stirring sermon on miracles. He recounted the time he was a hospital chaplain and was called in the middle of the night to console and counsel the family of a young man who had been in a horrific accident. The man was not expected to live through the night. When he arrived, the minister asked the family what they wanted him to do for them. "We want you to pray for a miracle." He said, and I quote, "I prayed very hard. I prayed like a Baptist. But the young man still died."
When I was retelling this story years later to a priest friend, he said matter-of-factly: " Maybe they did get their miracle, and the young man was received into Heaven upon his death." Somehow, that did not occur to me and I doubt it occurred to the minister who told the story.
He gave sight to the blind, healed the sick, cured the lepers and the cripples, and raised the dead, all for one reason: so that we might have eternal life with Him. Hard as it is to accept sometimes in our exile in this valley of tears, that is the only miracle we really need. All of the rest comes purely from God's generosity, and fortunately for us, He never tires of hearing us ask Him for more.
Posted by TLW at 9:11 AM