Image: Community Lunch, Inuvik
Today’s Gospel reading speaks to us about a miracle. 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 the students of 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 spectacular. So, what are we to make of the miracles of Jesus where he feeds so many people with just a little bit of food?
Marvels that we do not witness ourselves can be hard to accept and they become an obstacle to faith rather than a help. Just think of Doubting Thomas who would not believe Jesus was raised from the dead without seeing with his own eyes, touching the wounds of Christ with his hands. As rational people there is a part of us that wants an explanation.
Some would say, “don’t diminish the miracles of Jesus by rationalizing them or people will fail to be astonished by them.” This is fair, but at the same time, Jesus did not perform miracles to astound people. When Jesus performed a miracle there was always a point he was trying to get across. Even if some people cannot believe in miracles, they can still get the point?
Take the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. Perhaps Jesus did not do it to astonish the disciples but to test them, to see how they 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”, which they did not have. 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.
This is an important miracle to reflect for our diocese since we struggle for resources. Our leaders our stretched too thin, they feel tired and alone, we do not have enough priests to celebrate the Sacraments.
Yet I seen the miracle of the loaves and fish take place every time I celebrate a funeral in the mission communities. Many of the people do not have a lot of extra, but 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 it is the every-day miracles that are so 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.