November 22, 2013

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Year of Faith: We believe in miracles

John F. FinkSome people don’t believe in miracles. Therefore, they reject the Gospels because there undoubtedly are miracles in them. Or they try to find natural explanations for them.

If people cannot accept miracles, it’s understandable that they cannot accept the Gospels because they describe about 35 miracles performed by Jesus. They include his own resurrection; the raising of three persons back to life; numerous healings of sick, blind and lame people; nature miracles such as stopping a storm at sea and walking on water; multiplication of food; and prophecies, or miracles of the intellectual order.

Sometimes miracles are defined as violations of the natural law. They aren’t. They are interventions in the normal course of nature by a higher power outside of nature—God. If we believe in God, we must believe in the possibility of miracles. In the Gospels, or any part of the Scriptures, a miracle is always a matter of faith in God’s existence and his ability to manifest his love, care and plan of salvation.

If miracles are an exception to the natural order, we must first agree that there is a natural order. If our world were chaotic and without order, the idea of miracle would be meaningless. But scientists, or just our observance, assure us that there are indeed natural rules, the way things usually happen. If all that order came about because of God’s actions, then he can make exceptions to his natural law.

In a corporation there are always certain rules that all employees must observe. But the chief executive officer might decide, for a good reason, that an exception should be made for a certain individual. He doesn’t do away with the rule; he just uses his authority to suspend it in one particular instance.

Similarly, God, as the author of natural law, can make exceptions to that law in order to give us strong evidence that a given message has his authority behind it.

Of all great religious teachers, only Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and backed up that claim with miracles performed by his own authority. Other miracle workers called on God’s authority.

But some people might object that they’ve never seen a miracle. Miracles are rare and unusual. God doesn’t perform them willy-nilly. There are many things that we’ve never seen, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Actually, you have seen a miracle. You see it every time you go to Mass and see bread and wine changed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

So what about all those miracles that the Gospels say Jesus performed? Perhaps some of the healings were psychosomatic, but not all of them could have been. Was it just coincidence that the storm stopped when Jesus ordered it to? If Jesus didn’t really rise from the dead, why didn’t the Romans simply produce his dead body?

Rather than try to explain away miracles, those with faith should accept them as God’s intervention in human affairs.

Since the “Year of Faith” ends on Sunday, this is my final column in this series. †

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