“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” John 14:12
The validity of a miracles is vulnerable to the scrutiny of the mind, to skepticism, agnosticism, cynicism and to the great force of logic resolution of the human brain: the power of perception. What we see is not always what we get. Sometimes our mind sees more clearly than our eyes. Unless otherwise proven, perception is truth; reality.
Christ commanded his disciples to go out into communities everywhere and continue his work, spread the gospel, heal the sick and to perform miracles based on the examples of his work and his teachings. There are many historical documents that present the theory of the apostles honoring their teacher’s wishes; and there are many stories and much evidence of miracles being performed throughout the past twenty centuries; and all of these supernatural events are similar to miracles documented in the New Testament.
Many saints have been canonized since Christ walked the earth and that is only possible through verifiable proof of a miracle having been performed using criteria based on the perception of what a miracle is or was at that particular time in history. The same is true today. Every now and then someone perceived to be spiritually special and to have done or been a vital partner to a special, supernatural event is beatified and canonized and inducted into the soulful stratosphere of sainthood. There will always be miracles; but our understanding of what makes a miracle may not always stay the same.
Not all abnormal, special Christian linked events are recognized as miraculous and many good, great, magnificent deeds drift by under our noses and the reason for that is: Perception. Miracles are not always easily identified, such as waving a hand over a diseased child and curing it of its illness. Try telling a young boy, starving and dehydrated from a lack of clean water, in some African village, that the gang of people wearing crosses around their necks, calling themselves missionaries and disciples of Christ, bringing fresh food and seeds for planting and clear water and equipment to drill wells, are not performing biblical miracles in his modern little life that was destined for a heart wrenching and premature demise. To him the missionaries were agents of Christ, doing his work as commanded, saving lives, preventing suffering and death. In our modern world, saving that child’s life, by those acting on behalf of Christ — does that qualify as miraculous?
Perception. Without the divine intervention of the missionaries in this boy’s life he surely would have passed from starvation or thirst or disease. But he was saved by disciples of Christ doing God’s divine work. So they didn’t perform a miracle by the waving of hands and make something magically appear or change. But they did use their hands commanded by their spiritual leader to bring food and water and to drill wells that significantly impacted human lives through divine intervention. And that constitutes a miracle in our known twenty-first century vernacular.
Perception. If we open our minds to the broader light that perception shines on such acts then yes, these events are congruent with our paradigms and beliefs, definitions and perceptions of faith and what is truly a miracle in our society.
The dictionary, any one, just pick the one you prefer, defines a miracle as: “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
For instance, since winter is coming, this year the Christian mission workers will be going out into the streets to work with the homeless and the hungry and the sick and these outreach workers will offer them safety and shelter and sustenance and these acts, done in the name of Jesus Christ, will fit the definition of a miracle; they will be manifestations God’s words, of his divine presence in our hearts and minds that compels us to target, impact and change human affairs.
Pope John Paul II was canonized in 2011 due to prayers made by a Costa Rican woman, Floribeth Mora Diaz, the sufferer of an incurable brain aneurism. She claimed to have prayed to the deceased pope for her life and then said that she heard his voice tell her to get up and go to the kitchen to see her mother. Bed ridden with pain, Ms. Diaz managed to rise from her bed and did just what she was told to do by the pontiff and from that day on her illness vanished.
Perception. No magic hand waved over Ms. Diaz to cure her. Just the voice of a former pontiff who gave her instructions to get up and walk, something she was incapable of doing. For these instructions, and obviously a very special Christian full of divine value, John Paull II is now considered to be a saint.
Mother Theresa was made a saint after prayers were spoken to her by an Indian woman, Monica Besra, requesting to be cured from abdominal cancer. She was relieved of all evidence of the disease and lives cancer free today. Again, in this example there are no special, divine theatrics, not even a voice was heard. An assumption of the spiritual power of prayer uttered to Mother Theresa quantified that a miracle had been performed on Ms. Besra.
Perception. Does a miracle have to save someone’s life? If a tidal wave rages through a shoreline and destroys everything in its path except the local church and a hospital, is that a miracle? Did God’s hands steer the tidal wave around the church and hospital knowing how badly they would be needed in the coming days?
If someone prays day and night for God’s intervention to be lifted from poverty and they win a lottery is that a miracle? Were prayers answered? Is the response by God to prayer a divine act of intervention in human affairs – which by definition is considered a miracle?
Our perception of divine intervention seems to be the method of calibration for determining the presence of a miracle in today’s society. And it seems to be connected to the broad definition of what a miracle is in our language. Also, if we analyze Christ’s charge to us to continue his work and pay particular attention to the words “He that believeth in me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do” Jesus literally states that the teachings and miracles he had performed can and will be performed by everyone or anyone that believes in his deity and in the kingdom of God. Basically, that means we are all capable of performing miracles if we follow his example and live our lives according to his belief in us to do great things for our communities.
Many New Testament miracles are done daily in this world. If we combine the meaning of the word and our perception of the word’s potential then the easier it will be to look around our neighborhoods, read our newspapers or watch local, international news programs and pick out miraculous events occurring around us everywhere.
My second daughter was born with a small hole in her heart and required surgery to keep her alive. It was a tense time and many prayers were said on her behalf. She turns nineteen this year and has never had another problem with her heart. Just this past Monday, my six year old grandson had surgery on his eyes to restore vision and correct ongoing problems with his eyes. One hundred years ago these two events would have been heralded as great modern day miracles. Today, some would call them wonders of modern medicine.
Our ever expanding technological abilities seems to have lessened what we now perceive to be miraculous but for my daughter and my grandson prayers were indeed answered and the result was, with the help of gifted physicians, two healthy, growing, learning, loving human beings that were healed, from my perspective, by the manifestation of divine acts.
So, as far as New Testament miracles being performed in our day and age, well, Monday’s surgery on my grandson’s eyes is about as contemporary as you can get.
Perspective. It either changes or affirms everything.
j. Alan Vokey is an author of essays, short stories, poetry and an online Illustrated Christian Blog. He is also a fine artist and illustrator. His work has appeared in magazines, newspapers and journals across North America. To learn more, visit his web site at: jalanvokey.weebly.com
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