Is this miracle any different from what happened in Jesus’ day? I don’t think so. The situation is still one of people who are brought close to God, and who give thanks.
Last Tuesday, we began a new ‘Gospel Reflection’ group. We looked at the story of Jesus healing the daughter of the Syro-Phonecian woman, and a man who could not speak.
One of the people present asked the question ‘Why is it that we do not see such miracles today?’ This prompted me to think about the same question. Here are my reflections on the matter.
The first thing that comes to me to wonder about is this. If there were to be someone like Jesus walking around doing his ‘thing’ and we could see a blind man getting his sight back, and people healed of evil spirits, what would it get us that we don’t already have? Is there an effect that would be guaranteed?
I don’t think so. Even in Jesus’ day, people who saw what he did, did not believe in him. Remember the accusation that the Pharisees made against Him? ‘It is by the prince of devils that he casts out devils.’ People were always asking for a sign. St. Paul says ‘The Jews seek signs and wonders, and the Greeks wisdom, but we preach Christ, and him Crucified!!’ Take that!
The problem with our asking for a miracle is that it leaves us at the centre of the universe, not God. We are the ones who ask God to do a miracle so that we will believe. We are the ones who determine what a miracle will be. Who God is for us is determined by us. Miracles are like drugs of dependence. One is great, but then why not have more? What will convince us? If we are of a mind not to be convinced, then nothing will convince us. Looking for miracles and ‘proofs’ means in the long run that we are worshiping not God, but ourselves.
God wants us to love God, for himself. It’s like a marriage relationship. If there is love and trust within the marriage bond, then everything that happens is a miracle and a cause for giving thanks. If the bond of trust has been broken by repeated broken promises or a large infidelity, then nothing that the person can do can ‘prove’ that they are restored. The other person just has to begin to trust them again, without proof.
I love the Celtic way of looking at things. St. Brendan went on a sailing trip across the Atlantic. On the way he saw miracles: ‘That great leviathan whom you formed to sport in the deep,’ ( a whale) and palaces made of crystal (Icebergs). Everything that St. Brendan saw was conditioned by eyes that had long been used to seeing the works of God and God’s wonders in the deep, because he had been a lover of God for a long time. For St. Brendan, everything was a miracle, because God was acting everywhere.
Who can say when God is specifically acting? You know the story. I am looking for a car park. I pray. The god of car parks provides one for me! ‘Thank you God’ I pray. But was it really God who provided the car park for you or was it going to be there any way? Even if the car park was going to be there any way, from inside a relationship with God, one can properly say ‘Thank you God.’ But even if you have to do something else, it is also possible to say ‘Thank you God.’ But after particularly horrible events, when we have been rescued, or have come out the other side, the seriousness of the events make us say with an especially full heart ‘Thank you God.’
This story was told to us on Tuesday night too. The relative of one person present had an illness that was debilitating. Their life, which was already limited by age, was further limited by this new condition. But thanks to the doctors, the new condition was reversed. The person in the group said ‘That is a miracle! Thank you God. My relative’s life would have been so much worse, had not the doctors been able to reverse their condition.’ There is a person recognising God’s love for them in a particular way, and giving thanks. Is this any different from what happened in Jesus’ day? I don’t think so. The situation is one of people who are brought close to God, and who give thanks. As St. Paul urges us ‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks (Eucharistise!), for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus’. He doesn’t say ‘for’ everything give thanks. But ‘in’ everything. Not everything is what we want. But everything happens within our relationship with God and for that we can give thanks.
At the end of the Gospel John writes that what he has written is so that people will believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that people will have life in His name. But even after Easter, when Thomas was convinced that Jesus had risen, Jesus says to him (about us!) ‘Blessed are you Thomas because you have seen and believed, but more blessed are those who have not seen, yet believed in me.’
But there is one thing about ‘signs’ that we need to think about too. Jesus says in the controversy with the Pharisees about by what power he casts out daemons ‘But if it is by the finger of God I cast our daemons, then know that the Reign of god has come among you’.
Jesus makes a clear connection between the arrival of the reign of God, and people’s being possessed by other powers. This is a sign. John’s gospel is also full of signs that Jesus did. These are not necessarily ‘miracles’ but things that are meant to point beyond themselves, to direct people to God. GA legitimate question then would be to ask ‘What kind of action would ‘count’ as a kind of ‘demonstration’ of the power of God and the presence of Christ in the Church for people who were genuinely seeking?
Well, there are many. The early Church had martyrs which convinced some people. After that, there were the desert monks who did all kinds of things (like sitting on poles) to show their disdain for the ‘world’. Some people are convinced today by the ‘leg lengthening’ miracles (apart from the knowledge that every one has one leg longer than the other).
I remember one seeker who was convinced by the faith story of a member of our congregation as she forgave the young man who was driving the car in which their daughter was killed. The seeker said ‘I want what she’s got!’ I find most convincing the idea that the power of the resurrection is present in the Church when we see people who as adults are coming to Christ, having their lives transformed, and being baptized.
Whatever the answer is, it is true that we have to so live out our relationship with Christ, that it shows some how. ‘Let you light so shine that others may see your good works and glorify God.’
Maybe this is the ting that we find ‘missing’