Waiting for miracles

In today’s liturgy, we are presented with two different miracles. One in the first reading from the First Book of Kings and the second in the Gospel according to St. Luke. Baker's Dictionary of the Bible defines a miracle as "an event in the external world brought about by the immediate agency or the simple volition of God." It goes on to add that a miracle occurs to show that the power behind it is not limited to the laws of matter or mind as it interrupts fixed natural laws. The origin of the English word goes back via Middle English and Old French, to the Latin miraculum, from mirari, to wonder at, from mirus, wonderful. We also get the word ‘mirare’, ‘to look upward’ in Italian. Since the end of my lectures a few weeks again, I have had a little bit more time to ponder and to wonder at the smaller details of life. C. S. Lewis tells us that “miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” We don’t believe in miracles, we depend on them!

It's very interesting that a common word used for miracle in the New Testament can also be translated "sign." A miracle is a sign that God uses to point to Himself; the same way we follow signs to find a museum or an airport. Most people would agree that it is unwise to ignore signposts. Sadly, though, that is what some do on the road through life when the direction given does not fit their personal preference. Jaw-dropping mountain-top sunsets tell us a lot about the awesomeness and otherness and beauty of God, but if it's only in nature you find God you've missed his better part. God seeks people; people seek God. We see this in the readings.  Both of the miracles deal with people and human relationships.

“He called out to the Lord: "O Lord, my God, will you afflict even the widow with whom I am staying by killing her son?" (First Reading).

“When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, "Do not weep." (Gospel).

It’s an event that affected both the widow and the Prophet, the widow and Jesus.  That’s the way life is. Suffering affects all of us, or should. We should not become so anesthetised to each other’s pain that we simply spiritualise it away without being in solidarity with our brother or sister who is suffering. Elijah prays to the Lord and the miracle happens. Jesus prays and the miracle happens. In both these cases, the son is restored to life, he is resuscitated not resurrected. He will die again, his life is in God’s hands who will take him home to Him and then he will have eternal life. Just as Lazarus died, even after Jesus raised him from the dead.

When something unexpected or even phenomenal happens, we still have the ability to assimilate or accommodate the new information:  e.g. if someone sees an object in the sky that is not an expected one, they ‘adapt’ the idea to the category of ‘flying objects’  and until more is known, are satisfied with the general comfort zone of what they believe will be explained. However when it comes to miracles we are much more sceptical. It would be good for us to take heed of what St. Augustine has to say: “Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.”

God wants us to long for the joys of eternity. In fact, it is this focus and hope of eternity which is to lighten the burdens of this life. We so easily become independent and self-centred. With prosperity comes the temptation to forget the Lord. We live to see the miracle or to be comfortable, rather than to know God. In the readings we see that it was a great miracle, a supernatural act which had the fingerprint of God on it since only God has the power of life and death. Miracles are the exception, not the norm, and the miracles of the Bible contain the fingerprint of God. We live in a fallen world where sin and Satan are ever active.

 Call me crazy but yesterday in Ireland, I think we experienced a miracle. Between 30,000 and 40,000 people gathered together in Dublin to stand up for the protection of life in the womb. Whilst it is not about the numbers, it is clear that more and more people are coming out to support the Pro-Life movement and oppose the Government’s destructive abortion proposal. The Lord is awakening the minds and consciences and opening the hearts of more good and honest people to bring Christ back to the centre of our country.
Over these past few days I have been thinking back to this time last year when the International Eucharistic Congress was taking place. What legacy did it leave? Did it change our lives? Did we become more of a Eucharistic people? Are we ‘in communion with Christ and with one another’, as the theme of the Congress reminded us? I think we are. I see the signs, the miracles of a Church which is growing from the ashes of it purification. There is new hope, new spirit and new life. The word ‘Eucharist’ comes from the Greek word  to give thanks. When we grow in gratitude and the ability to give thanks, our eyes are open to the wonders which are all around us. We realise that every human life is so precious, that life in the womb is so precious, that faith is a precious gift.

I leave you to ponder upon miracles a little more with this song “When you believe”, from the Disney movie ‘Prince of Egypt’, originally sung by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston but sung here by Celtic Women (slight Irish bias coming out!).

My favourite words of the song are:
“They don't always happen when you ask,
and it's easy to give in to your fears,
but when you're blinded by your pain,
can't see your way straight through the rain, a
A small but still resilient voice
Says hope is very near!

Happy listening!