Expect a Miracle!
“Expect a miracle!” Those words on the lips of TV evangelists are particularly effective in fundraising. We use social media platforms pleading for prayers and miracle cures. (Beware of high-tech gossip.) Miracles validated by science and the Church testify to the sanctity of saints. But is it reasonable to expect everyday miracles from God?
Creation is the foundation of all miracles. God created the universe out of nothing. His handiwork surrounds us, from the rising sun to majestic mountains, plains of grain, and shining seas. Occasionally, His miracles impress us. Someone accustomed to the flatlands of the Midwest is initially awe-struck by those mountains. But the awe usually gives way to routine, and we quickly lose our sense of wonder. The Psalms rekindle our amazement:
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork...There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (Ps. 19:1-4)
Gospel miracles are extraordinary divine interventions: surprising and welcome events that elude scientific explanation. The miracles of Jesus do not violate nature. They fulfill and transcend nature’s ordinary course. Jesus performed many miracles. Changing water into wine is the first of His signs and manifestations of glory. Like the multiplication of the loaves, the miracle finds fulfillment in Transubstantiation, the Eucharist. His healings of the lepers, the lame, the blind, and others enhance our confidence in His words. His signs and wonders never violate human freedom but enkindle faith.
Those who pay close attention realize—along with John the Baptist—that His miracles fulfill the messianic prophecies of the Prophet Isaiah: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” (Lk. 7:22-23) The miracles of Jesus affirm His authority as Messiah. He is not a revolutionary upsetting the entire Jewish religion. Jesus reveals, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Mt. 5:17)
The miracles of Jesus in many ways foreshadow modern wonders, the results of advances in the study of science and technology. Retina specialists now repair blind eyes. Orthopedic surgeons can repair broken hips and gimpy joints. Modern vaccines have effectively eliminated leprosy, and surgical techniques tune up rambunctious hearts. Miracles of science and technology are astonishing. Perhaps advances in understanding medical science are slow-motion discoveries of the medical procedures used by Jesus!
All miracles, natural or divine, have purposes beyond the immediate manifestation. The wonders of science and technology heal us and extend our lives, and make life more comfortable. Technologies may help us on our way of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But we often abuse modern marvels and violate human rights for the benefit of few. Even when properly used, they cannot provide us with the ultimate reason for good health and long life.
The many miracles of Jesus also do not stand alone. They need further explanation and fulfillment. The wedding guests consumed the water that He changed into wine. The people He healed from countless infirmities no longer walk the earth. Lazarus died a second time. So the Gospel miracles prepare us to accept an ultimate Miracle that opens the door to eternal life. Indeed, the Resurrection of Jesus is the Miracle of miracles. His victory is the reason for—and the fulfillment of—His every word and mighty deed. In His Resurrection, Jesus conquers sin, suffering, and death for eternity, and He offers us redemption and salvation.
The Cross and Resurrection prepare the way for even more miracles with our free response. God sheds His grace upon us through the Gifts of the Holy Spirit received through the Sacraments, but He also lavishes it upon the world, and we become His miraculous instruments. So when we pray, we should indeed “expect a miracle.” We pray that God intervenes by inflaming the virtues of patience, competence, and compassion upon family members, medical personnel, and maintenance workers. But He needs open hearts to receive His gentle graces because His miracles do not violate our freedom.
Here is a composite story most priests can tell. A woman is dying and needs a priest for Extreme Unction, the Anointing of the Sick. Her husband sits in sorrow at the bedside, clutching a rosary. He wonders why God did not answer his prayers for help over the many months of his wife’s passion. But God indeed worked a miracle. He sent him, and the man sat by her side, cared for her, lifted her spirits—and called a priest for the sacraments. God provided the husband with the miraculous strength of compassion, and he responded with Christian generosity fulfilling his duties as a spouse.
The miracles of Jesus are miracles of life. They encompass the past, present, and future. They fulfill Scriptures, affirm His Divine authority, and foreshadow the Resurrection. His mighty signs—water changed to wine and the multiplication of the loaves—prepare us to encounter the Risen Jesus at Mass and in the Sacraments. In union with Him after the Descent of the Holy Spirit—as members of His Mystical Body—we also become “miracle workers” in Jesus!
When we make our requests for miracles, we must be careful not to expect Jesus to dance to our tune (cf. Mt. 11:17). So we conclude our petitionary prayers with the words of Jesus in the Garden, “Not my will, but thine.” As members of the Mystical Body of Christ, we can always expect the everyday miracles of grace that strengthen our faith, deepen our love, and increase our zeal for the salvation of souls.
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