A few words about Jesus' miracles

Readings: Is. 35.4-7; Ps. 146; Js. 2.1-5; Mk. 7.31-37

"Be opened!" Jesus says to the deaf man. And the deaf man begins to hear. Jesus worked this miracle physically. Perhaps we might understand this miracle also metaphorically? Perhaps we might infer that Jesus is saying to us that we need to have not our ears but our minds, hearts, and souls opened to his teachings?

A few words about Jesus' miracles: who, what, why, where, and when?

Who? Jesus, the son of God and son of Man, performed miracles by the power of God which he possessed. As a miracle worker, Jesus did not act by magic but by mystery. Throughout human history, until the Modern Age, magic oftentimes has been associated with religion. Witch doctors or medicine men or shamans say magical words over certain potions which allegedly cured people. On TV in our times, we can watch magicians do fantastic tricks. One TV program presents a magic show for one hour and for the next hour explains and demonstrates how these tricks were performed. Notice, however, that Jesus speaks very few words when he heals people, and he has no potions or props. Jesus says to the recipients of his miracles, "Your faith has saved you. Your sins are forgiven." Jesus is not a magician. Jesus is the Son of God who works miracles through the power of God working in him.

What? Jesus performed countless miracles. St. Mark writes, "All who touched him became well." (6.56) We have also stories of three dozen specific miracles. Well over half of them dealt with curing people from physical sickness. On three occasions he raised people from the dead. The other miracles dealt with providing food and drink, walking on water, calming the seas, etc.

Why? Uniquely in Mark's gospel, after Jesus has performed each of his miracles, he says immediately, "Say nothing." Jesus fears that the crowds might misunderstand his motives. Jesus did not work miracles to impress people, or curry favor, or attract followers. Jesus worked miracles to help people Actually Jesus feared that the crowds were coming to him because they misunderstood his purpose. Jesus performed miracles in order to demonstrate the power of God within himself, to testify that the Father had sent the Son, to encourage people that they might live wonderfully grace-filled lives by the power of God living within them too.

Where? Jesus performed all but one of his known miracles in Palestine: in the upper region called Galilee and the lower third called Judea. He worked no miracles in Samaria. He worked one miracle in the Decapolis, i.e., the region of the Ten Cities that formed one province on the east side of the Jordan River; this is the gospel miracle that we heard this morning. Of the four gospels, Matthew gives the most frequent recordings of Jesus' miracles. John's gospel provides the fewest accounts of Jesus' miracles. Only one miracle is reported in all four gospels: the feeding of the five thousand men plus women and children.

When? Jesus worked all these miracles during his brief public ministry which lasted somewhere between one and a half to three years.

To what benefit do Jesus' miracles help your faith, hope and love? 1) Do these miracles deepen your faith that Jesus is the God-Man who became our incarnate brother, and that in Jesus we have seen the presence and power of God? Do these miracles, while not proving your faith which cannot be proven, support and strengthen your faith? ... 2) Do these miracles increase your hope that you too might bring to Jesus your requests for help? Can you picture yourself in Jesus' time as a member of the crowd watching and hoping that Jesus might reach out and perform a miracle for you? Do Jesus' miracles and the intercession of the Blessed Mother and the saints for thousands of miracles give you hope that maybe Jesus, his Blessed Mother and the saints might hear your requests? 3) Do Jesus' miracles expand your vision of love to embrace every person as a child of God just as Jesus reached out to every kind of person: men and women, young and old, powerful and powerless, rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles?

Personally, in my family we prayed for miracles for certain situations. The miracles never happened. But we grew in faith, hope, and love as we prayed passionately for certain miracles. No physical miracles took place. I do think, however, that moral miracles occurred within the minds, hearts and souls of the family members. One of my favorite prayers pertains to apparently unanswered prayers:

  • I asked God for strength that I might achieve. I was made weak that I might learn to obey.
  • I asked God for health that I might do great things. I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
  • I asked God for riches that I might be happy. I was given poverty that I might be wise.
  • I asked God for power that I might have approval. I was given weakness that I might feel the need for God.
  • I asked for all things that I might enjoy life. I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
  • I received nothing that I asked for but everything I hoped for. I am among all people most richly blessed.

Each of us can learn something new every day. Even when we might be gasping for our last breaths on our death beds, we still will have the opportunity to be learning something new. To repeat Jesus' words, "Be opened." What might God be saying to you today?

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