What are signs and wonders? What should we consider amazing? What is a miracle?
I am afraid that miracles and amazing stories are what move people to a deeper commitment to their faith. Many years ago when I had doubts of faith, my cousin would show me pictures that purportedly showed images of the Blessed Virgin Mary in flash photographs, or a silhouette of her in the sky, etc… These, along with other phenomenon were supposed to help convince me of Mary’s presence, or of her power, or of the Lord’s glory. It did none of it. On the contrary, I thought she was nuts!
Just a few nights ago I had dinner with a woman who lost her husband after forty-one years of marriage. The loss, after two years now, is still hard for her to accept. And I am afraid it will be like that for the rest of her life. So to cheer her up, I asked her to take out her High School year book. She graduated in 1966; I was a one year old. I was moved to see so many young teachers dressed in style - in dress or suit and tie, depending on their gender of course! And then I realized that all these young teachers were most likely dead and gone. I couldn’t believe it. It shocked me to think about it. The gusto of life, captured in each photo of days gone by, of important meetings, events and activities, were long gone. Their significance depreciated exponentially with every passing year. Even the sweetheart messages, written by friends and admirers, although poignant were no longer applicable or noteworthy to the recipient whose life had radically changed with the death of her husband. She was no longer a teenager but a woman who had a heavy heart. As I read on, I noticed the “Most likely to succeed”, my host was quick to note that he had died soon after High School, in Vietnam.
What did I take out of this little exercise? Throughout the pages, I could see the amazing gift of life and how precious it is. Life on earth is very, very short, yet still miraculous and amazing to behold.
What I love most about G.K. Chesterton, author, journalist and playwright, is that he can take the most common occurrence, the ordinary, and turn it into a spectacle of light, beauty and depth. His wisdom far exceeds any other I have read. That might not say much about me, but Chesterton has a God-given gift to see, appreciate and reflect on ordinary life, creation and faith in a way that is simply paradoxical; similar to our Lord.
“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
We look for miracles all the time. We love to write about them. Yesterday, I gave my homily on the providential encounter I had with an elderly gentleman in Italy that happened to be a distant relative. A child came up to me and asked me if it was all true. I told him, “Yes, it’s absolutely true.” And it is. I have even more amazing things to share with my congregation, but one story at a time. It can be overwhelming. But then I got to thinking. Isn’t everything a miracle, even the “ordinary”?
I mean, is not everything a sign and wonder of God? Isn’t God’s creation just amazing? Not to say life on earth spectacular? Here we are a speck in the vast Universe and yet we don’t feel alone or lost, but cozy! Yesterday, at a marked location in the Universe, I had dinner at a friend's home and I didn't feel overwhelmed! “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me” (Ps 30:2a). The Lord has rescued me from a life of carpe diem! It isn’t about seizing the day, but living for meaning, living for purpose, living for something greater than I. What a difference it makes! What consolation it gives. To know that I am part of a much bigger body, a member of a much bigger cause, is fine with me. I don’t mind at all being a foot soldier in this Great War of salvation; to know that my actions are my battles waged on the right hand of the Father, on his battlefield. It isn’t a vision, it is a living reality. We come each day closer and closer either to the end of the world or to a new beginning. But we know it will eventually lead to a new creation.
“Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create.” (Is 65:17)
Let us ask the Lord for eyes that see and ears that hear. Let us never take for granted the ordinary that rules our skies, lives and universe on a daily basis.