Do you believe in miracles? The dictionary defines a miracle as a ”transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the deity or by the imposition of some invisible agent.” Nowadays miracles by the volition of the deity, by God, are viewed by many as absurd because God does not exist for so many. They believe that eventually science will reveal all the invisible agents that produce mysterious happenings. A man with little faith was lost in the desert. He told his friends that he was in such despair that he knelt down and cried out to God for help. Did God answer he was asked. ‘Oh no.’ He said. ‘Before he could a man appeared and showed me the way out.’ Was that coincidence or a miracle?
Our culture does use the term miracle to describe things that offer us hope. There are happenings that bring forth unexpected responses like the birth of a child, the expression of tender love between a husband and wife, happenings that catch our breath and touch our hearts, miraculous happenings.
A college student was in a coma following an auto accident. Her mother watched her day and night. Finally in frustration she prayed, “God, she’s yours. If you want her, take her. Or show us a sign”. Shortly after, the daughter yawned. Was that a coincidence or a miracle? To the mother it was a miracle because it was a sign of hope and allowed her to persevere in expressing her mother’s love in difficult times.
The gospel reading describes the miracle of the water made wine as the first of the signs Jesus used to reveal his presence and resulted in others coming to believe in him. That is what the miracles documented in sacred Scripture can be for us, signs that God’s presence is real and they can encourage us to believe and so to persevere in hope, especially in difficult times.
What was Jesus trying to tell us in this first sign? One perhaps was to give us a guide to discipleship by Mary his mother. When there was a need, she interceded on behalf of the bride and groom. She did so by going to Jesus, sure that he would attend the need. Today when she intercedes for us she always points us to Jesus. Mary’s example is an invitation for us to seek peace by going to Jesus in prayer and adoration. I have experienced that personally, resting in his presence brings rest in the soul.
The response of Jesus to Mary’s request that there is no wine sounds a bit harsh. ”Woman, how does this concern affect me? My hour has not yet come”. “Woman” seems cold to us, but scholars tell us that it was the formal way of speaking at the time. Jesus used the same address with great affection when from the cross referring to the Apostle John, he said, “Woman, there is your son”, and to John, “there is your mother”, insuring her care after his death and announcing her role as Mother of the Church and of each of us.
Mary’s response was one of faith and trust. “Do whatever he tells you.” They are the last words of Mary recorded in Sacred Scripture. They are profound and prophetic words: “Do whatever he tells you.” Mary had faith, trusted even though she may not have fully understood. There are times when we do not understand why cancer strikes or after a valiant battle it strikes again, why families quarrel or mentally ill persons violently take innocent lives, why economic hardships come, why hatred hurts or loved ones are taken from us, why religious liberty is threatened and the value of human life is diminished by our government.
This next week we sadly note the 46th anniversary of the US Supreme Court decision to allow even encourage abortions for any reason. Basically it is the law of the land that the unborn are not persons and are therefore disposable. It also results in not attending to the real needs of women and families who are struggling in so many ways. I wonder if the judges would have decided this way had they experienced the miracle of modern technology that shows active life in the womb and documents pain before birth or if they had heard the testimony of those mothers who continue to carry the heavy burden of the loss of their child in this way. Let us pray for a miracle for a change of heart and law that protects all life from conception to natural death. Because we believe in miracles we know there is hope.
Following the model of Mary, we are called to be people of hope in whatever way we are able. We have the choice of seeing the world and its troubles with fear and dread. Or we can see the world despite its troubles with trust in the Lord that miracles can result in transformation for the good.
St. Paul in the 2nd reading reminds us that there are different gifts, different forms of service, different works but the same Spirit who produces them all. Do we use the gifts we have received to discourage or encourage? Do we take advantage of the opportunity to share our faith and our trust of Jesus with others in word and in work? Do we seize the moment to be miracle workers ourselves in the lives of others?
A man recalled two teachers from his youth, Mrs. Grant in first grade and Mrs. Abbott in second grade. In the first grade the assignment was given to draw something. The boy drew a tepee which he colored purple. Mrs. Grant told him purple was no color for a tent, it is the color of death and that the drawing was not realistic enough and therefore his drawing was not good enough to hang on the wall with the drawings of other students. He sat at his seat with his head bowed. Then with a black crayon he scribbled over his drawing, “I brought nightfall to my purple tent in the middle of the afternoon”, he recalled. In second grade a similar assignment to draw was given. The boy remembering his earlier experience just sat there and left the paper blank. Mrs. Abbott came to his desk. His heart was beating rapidly. She gently touched his head and said in a soft voice, “Oh, the snowfall. How clean and white and beautiful.” They were words of hope and encouragement that stayed with him throughout his life.
We by a kind word or simple gesture can be God’s instruments to lift up and encourage whatever our age, status or condition. God can use us to perform miracles if we take the time to listen to him and then follow what Mary advised, do whatever he tells you.