Miracles were essential to the ministry of Jesus. Jesus taught and he healed. Most scholars believe that 35 percent of Jesus ministry was given to healing and working miracles.
And even this might not give the full picture. One writer said, “Whenever we read the Gospel we see Jesus leaving one healing and going to perform another.” We see many references to Jesus’ life when we read about Jesus performing miracles. In these passages we get glimpses of the vast numbers that Jesus healed: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. “ Mk 1:33-34, “and wherever he went into the villages, towns or countryside they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.” Mk 5:15
In the Gospel of Luke 7:19-23 “Summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to ask the Lord, ‘Are you He who is to come? Or do we expect someone else?’ When the men came to him they said, “John the Baptizer sends us to you with this question: ‘Are you “He who is to come” or do we look for someone else?’” At that time Jesus was curing many of their diseases, afflictions, and evil spirits; he also restored sight to many who were blind. Jesus gave this response, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard. The blind recover their sight, cripples walk, lepers are cured, the deaf hear, dead men are raised to life, and the poor have the good news preached to them.” It is interesting that Jesus does not say yes or no to John’s question. He points to his miracles.
Jesus is actually pointing to the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah. Isaiah predicted that the Messiah would work miracles. We read in Isaiah 29: 18-19 “On that day the deaf shall hear. And out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find Joy in the Lord and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.”
This is one of the Scripture readings that the church gives us to read when a priest administers the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. This sacrament is the one most connected with healing. In this sacrament a priest prays for healing for the sick person. There ought to be a hopeful expectation of healing of the person’s soul and in many cases the person’s body.
Let us look at a small section of the Gospel of Matthew. We see many healings in Chapters 8 and 9 alone: Jesus heals a man with leprosy Matt 8:1-4, the healing of a Centurion’s servant Matt 8:5-13, the curing of Peter’s mother-in-law Matt 8:14-15. (A little joke: Why did Peter deny our Lord? Answer: Because He healed his mother-in-law.) Then we read in Matt 8: 16-17,”When it was evening they brought him many who were possessed by demons, and he cured all the sick, to fulfill what had been said by Isaiah the prophet: ‘He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases.’
We see other miracles of healing in Matthew such as miracles over nature. In Matt 8:23-27, Jesus calms the storm with a single command. Chapter 8 ends with the healing of the Gadarene Demoniacs.
A quick view of Matthew Chapter 9 will further reinforce the fact that Jesus worked many miracles. We read about a healing of a paralytic, the healing of the official’s daughter, healing of the woman with a hemorrhage, the healing of the two blind men, and the healing of the mute person. Mathew’s Gospel ends with,” Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.”
It is clear that Jesus performed many miracles. But what conditions have to exist for miracles to be performed? If we look at Matthew 9:28-29, Jesus asked the two blind men, “Do you believe I can do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they said to him. Then he touched their eyes and said, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” The first condition is faith. We must have faith in Jesus. So important is faith that we are told in Mark 6:4-6 that Jesus could perform no miracles in hometown of Nazareth because of their lack of faith.
We read in Luke 11:9-13 “And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake, if he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
Every parent desires to give good things to their children. A parent who is tending to a sick child, would gladly give their life for the child. If we would who are wicked would do such a loving act, how much will the Father bless His children? Our Father in heaven is more loving than any parent. When we fully believe that our Father in heaven is Love, it flows naturally that our Father in Heaven would want to bless his children.
Francis MacNutt in his book Healing gives an interesting image of healing. He says: imagine being in a hospital. The doctor and nurses are all trying to help the sick patient. A priest is called and the priest says to the sick person, “This Illness is God’s will for you.” What kind of image of God does this priest present to the patient?, If the illness is God’s will then why are you in the hospital in the first place? And also these words from the priest, make it seems that the doctors and nurses are more concerned with healing this person than God.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in Par 547, “Jesus accompanies his words with many ‘mighty works and wonders and signs,’ which manifest that the Kingdom is present in him and attest that he was the promised Messiah.” This paragraph from the Catechism references Acts 2:22 when Peter says in the first homily at Pentecost, “You are Israelites, hear these words. Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders and signs, which God worked through him in your midst as you yourself know.”
We read in Par 548, “The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in Him…so miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father’s work; they bear witness that He is the Son of God.
The First Vatican Council said this about miracles: “If anyone should say that all miracles are impossible and consequently all accounts of them, even those found in the Holy Scripture, are to be taken as fabulous and mythical, or that miracles can never be known with certainty and that they do not provide valid proof of the divine origin of the Christian religion: let him be an anathema.”
Miracles serve several purposes. One is to confirm the truth about Jesus and the Christian faith. It can also be said that In the gospels Jesus didn’t work miracles only to confirm what he said, Jesus worked miracles because he was moved with compassion when he saw someone hurting. Jesus worked miracles out of love for suffering people.
Now the greatest miracle is the resurrection. It is the reality that Jesus rose from the dead, that we are set free. We read in 1 Cor 15:14 “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” The Resurrection is the Miracle of Miracles.
We can touch the Risen Lord in the Eucharist. In the Catechism Par 1323 we read, “At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Savior instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood. This he did in order to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until he should come again, and so to entrust to his beloved spouse, the Church, a memorial of his death and resurrection: a sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a Paschal banquet ‘in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us.”
If miracles are so vital to the ministry of Jesus why don’t we see more miracles in the Church today? The answer is that we do: In the Eucharist Jesus gives us his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. In the Eucharist, we touch the Risen Lord.
What do miracles do for us today? The word miracles comes from the latin miraculum, from mirari: to wonder. Miracles serve to wake people up, to get their attention so that they may be more receptive to the Gospel message.
We read in scripture that Jesus is the same “Yesterday, Today, and Forever.” Miracles show us that Jesus is alive. Sometimes our image of Jesus can be quite dead. Miracles remind us that Jesus loves us and desires to bring healing to us.
When we think of miracles we think of places like Lourdes, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, St Joseph’s in Montreal, Canada. But we don’t have to go to a far away place, we just need to open our hearts in faith and expect Jesus to move. Jesus says in the Gospel, “When you pray, believe that you have already received and it shall be.” These words from Jesus are as true today as they were 2000 years ago.
Who can perform miracles and who can heal? We read at the beginning of Chapter 10 of Matthew’s Gospel, “ Then he summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirit and to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness.” But Jesus didn’t give this authority to work miracles and healing only to priests. He gave this power to everyone who believes. We hear Jesus saying at the end of Mark’s Gospel, “These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink and deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.”
Everyone can pray for healing but the Holy Spirit also gives some people a special gift of healing that the church calls a charism. We read in par 1508 of the Catechism, “The Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the Risen Lord.”
Miracles remind us that Jesus is alive and we can all pray for miracles. In fact, Jesus wants us to pray for miracles. Whenever the Church canonizes a saint, who is not a martyr, proof of a miracle is needed. The miracle proves that the person is in heaven. The saint’s intercession shows us that in heaven they are thinking of us and praying for us. Fr Stefan’s friend Father Ron Pytel’s heart was healed thru the intercession of St. Faustina. The Vatican accepted this miracle for the canonization of St. Faustina.
May we have a greater faith in miracles and may we pray for one another. May we also know that nothing is impossible for God.
Let God Surprise You