Image: Community Kitchen, Our Lady of Victory Church
Have you ever seen a miracle?
I performed a little experiment one day while I was giving a talk in an elementary school to each of the classes from Kindergarten to Grade 6. I asked each class in turn, “Have you ever seen a miracle?”
The Kindergarten class was first. I asked the question and every one of the students shot their hand up in the air and it took nearly the rest of the time I had with them to hear the stories of miracles that they had witnessed. Grade ones were next and most said they had but by grade 2 and 3 the numbers started to drop and by the time I got to the students in grade 6 not one hand went up in the air. What caused the change?
Maybe it was shyness, maybe they had stopped believing in miracles, perhaps their standards for what they considered a miracle had been raised. Whatever the reason, I think it would be fair to say that to get a fair response in today’s world, a miracle would have to be pretty darn spectacular. So what are we to make of the miracles of Jesus?
Some would say, “don’t diminish the miracles of Jesus by rationalizing them just because people don’t want to believe in them.” This is fair, but at the same time, Jesus didn’t perform miracles just to astound people. When Jesus performed a miracle there was always a point he was trying to get across. Even if some people don’t want to believe in miracles, can they still get the point?
Take the miracle of the feeding of the 5000, which is the Gospel for today. Jesus did it to test Philip, to see how he would respond to the great need and hunger in the people that had gathered. Philip thought practically, “a lot of food costs a lot of money”. Jesus invited him to think differently, “You have everything you need right here”. Jesus performed a miracle with five loaves and two fish. God provided the grace, but the gifts came from the community itself.
I see the miracle of the loaves and fish take place every time I celebrate a funeral in the mission communities. Most of the people are very poor and don’t have a lot of extra. Yet when it comes time to support someone who is grieving the simple ingredients in their cupboards are multiplied. The table laid out at the funeral reception is a veritable foretaste of the banquet table in heaven with sumptuous foods from the land and the fruits of wells seasoned cooks and bakers. No one goes hungry and there are always left overs to be taken back home for the next day and to be shared with elders who could not attend the feast.
I don’t know that I have ever seen a super-natural miracle but enough people have shared personal experiences with me that I choose to believe that miracles do happen. I also believe that Jesus performed miracles to help others and to show the power of God. But I believe that the every-day miracles are more important to Christian life. The kind of miracles that people make happen when they gather in the spirit of compassion and kindness and, with God’s grace, bring about good things that would have been thought impossible.