“Where are the miracles today?”
Thoughts on 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time August 13, 2017
by Rev. Jim Ryan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Today’s Gospel story of Jesus inviting Peter to come to him on the water is a familiar one (Matthew 14:22-33). Peter responds by stepping out of the boat and walking toward Jesus. He stays upright until the winds hit him, he realizes what he is doing and he falls into the water.
For some reason this story of what may be referred to as the miracle of Peter walking on water has struck me to ask, “Where are the miracles today?” And, what are miracles, anyway? Are they only coincidences or embellishments? Are they what happens when the facts can no longer be supported by a rational explanation? Or is this story just an embellishment of a quite different story that occurred 35-45 years prior to the writing of this Gospel story?
Once the facts are exhausted then, it seems, something must explain what happened. And maybe that something is what we, for no reason but for convenience, call divine intervention.
Or are miracles a matter of randomness, that term so loved by those who have hit lhe limit of cold, hard reality? You know, things just happen. So why not miracles?
All these questions treat the notion of miracle as if only the spectacle of unexplained occurrences and unsubstantiated changes is the basis for identifying what is a miracle and when it happens.
But, what if miracle isn’t about spectacle after all? What if miracles, the really important ones, happen right under our noses ?
When I was at the parish in eastern Kentucky I had a friend, Marie Gangwish, who was a member of the Congregation of Divine Providence. Sister Marie was chaplain at Our Lady of the Way Hospital in Martin, Kentucky. She had a way of getting to people who were open to accepting God in their lives. Their life stories included life-long churchgoers who still hadn’t found God, or some who had no church and had definite opinions against all that religious stuff. Still others were just good ‘ol folks who mined coal, drank hard, smoked too much and waited for the end.
Marie would talk with them and they changed. They accepted God and were baptized. Marie was our Miracle Worker, not because she had power at her disposal. Marie’s miracles were of the “change one’s heart” variety.
Today’s miracles, especially the really big ones, are about conversion. When a person changes one’s heart and believes in God’s love, that is a miracle.
I have come to believe, and probably you too, that what is most satisfying to God is when a person turns away from the bad that they planned to do and turns toward doing good and taking care of others.
So, change of heart is one of today’s miracles.
Another miracle is hope in dying. On Friday Jean and I celebrated the birthday of a friend, a former co-worker, and one who has prayed with us here at Mary of Magdala Community. Gayle F. celebrated on Friday not just her birthday, but also the final journey she is on to her death. She weighs less than 80 pounds these days, is bedridden, can no longer take care of her own bodily functions. She is also happy to see family and friends, quite capable of conversing with them and accepting these final days as preparation for what’s next. However, when I looked into Gayle’s eyes I knew she was already someplace else. Her hope now is to move on to new life. We prayed, we anointed, we held hands, and we drew on her hope in dying.
This hope in dying is also a miracle. When you think about it, all the facts just tell us that when the body dies that’s the end. There is no more function so that’s it, end of story. Yet, to hope in dying, to be confident that there is something next, this is a miracle.
Today’s miracles, at least two of them, are Change of Heart and Hope in Dying. When you or I are blessed to witness these miracles it is no less than to be invited by Jesus to walk on water.
As we shared these thoughts today one of our members reminded us of a very special blessing. It is that these miracles are not single occurrences. They happen over and over again. And with any luck/providence we are part of the support that accompanies the miracle for those who experience it. These repeating miracles make our lives rich. And for this we are thankful.
One more thing. We also spoke this morning about Blessed Oscar Romero. The centenary of his birth is this week. He was born on August 15, 1917. One of our members pointed out to us that Oscar Romero had his own miraculous change of heart. He was a Bishop to the rich and the powerful. And he was content to carry on his duties as bishop without changing the status quo which was so critical to keeping the rich, rich and the poor, poor in El Salvador. But then, he had a change of heart. He began to see that Jesus really meant it when he said that those who lifted up the poor would be persecuted. Oscar Romero came to see that we are Christ and Christ is us – all of us. Here is a statement he made in one of his regular Sunday radio addresses on January 13, 1980:
“What an honor to think that all of you before me are Christ!
Even the humblest peasant, who may be pondering there next to a radio,
you are Christ! For your baptism is one with the death and resurrection
of the Lord.”
A Prayer (JR)
Where, O God, are the miracles?
Are they actual or only apparent?
Do they mean anything, or are they only curiosities?
Here, right in front of us, and here among us,
You reveal yourself in each one of us.
Let the miracle of a changed heart and of nourishment to feed our spirits
be enough for us to give you praise and thanks, to acknowledge your presence among us
and to do your work now and forever.