In Mark’s Gospel, it’s another day, another miracle… and today, we get two of them. Jesus drives a demon from a possessed girl, then he goes on to cure a man’s deafness and speech impediment. Significantly these miracles take place deep in Gentile territory.
But today’s good news gets started on a sour note. When he is approached by the girl’s Syro-phoenecian mother, Jesus ostentatiously rejects her with traditional Israelite contempt for an outsider… going so far as to refer to the pitiful supplicant as a “dog.” But there is hidden kindness in his apparent contempt. The woman’s reaction is to declare her faith in Jesus and her willingness to humble herself to heal her daughter. Then Jesus tells her that her faith has made it so.
As usual, with Jesus every miracle has a message. Christ’s redeeming grace, first promised to the Chosen People, is now given to all who come to him in faith. To dramatize God’s universal love, Christ quickly reverses his parochial rebuke and tells the woman her prayers are answered. This message will be repeated over and over to the disciples. Think outside the box: Go out and baptise all nations. Bring all God’s children home to him.
Jesus then travels on and people bring him a deaf man with a speech impediment. This dual disability is a common phenomenon. We need an ear for language and without that ear our tongue is tied. Jesus opens the man’s ears and both his hearing and his speech are cured. I hear an added message in the order of these miracles. I must actively listen to the gospel. I must hear it before I can preach it.
There is a subtle danger in Mark’s cascade of miracles. For too many of us, Christ’s miracles are out of synch with our realities. As average Christians we don’t consciously deny the miracles. We just take them for granted, when we take them at all. We tend to isolate miracles in the context of the long ago and far away. As hard-nosed inhabitants of the 21st century: “What have you done for me lately?” is the operative question.
To the cynical, the distracted, the bored, Jesus commands: Ephphata… Be opened! Open your hearts. Open your minds. Open your senses. Open your will to believe. In the lyric of Oscar Hammerstein, “A hundred million miracles are happening every day.” And that’s a gross under-estimate. On the macro-scale of miracles, start with the ongoing order of the universe. Intense study of its creation and preservation awed Einstein to affirm the inevitability of God’s hand in the miraculous mechanism of the universe.
Follow this up with a closer examination of our own tiny patch of Creation. While other religions have mixed positions on miracles, Christianity is based entirely on a miracle… the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As Paul says: If Christ be not risen, your faith is worthless. But the miracle is real. Christ is risen and our faith is priceless.
We can clearly see that in the many micro-miracles that witness Christ’s love in our lives… our grudges and resentments become forgiveness and lift the crushing burden of anger from our hearts…our smug pride is banished and replaced by serenity…our fears and depression blossom into hope and joy…our faltering faith can become an unassailable refuge in times of trouble…all this and more.
Some still try to explain these miracles away on a molecular level as just an acquired reaction to stimulus, a roundabout route to a self-induced endorphin rush. But the guiding hand of God is undeniably evident, a hundred million times a day, when his people seek and find his will. And these many, many micro-miracles add up to better lives and a better world. Commenting on the cumulative effect of micro-miracles, C.S. Lewis wrote: “Each miracle writes for us in small letters something that God has already written in letters almost too large to be noticed across the whole canvas of nature.” In Christ each one of us is invited to a lifetime of such wonders …Another Day, Another Miracle.
The Reverend David Sellery, Episcopal Priest, Author, and Coach. Fr. Sellery presently serves as Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Salisbury, CT. Fr. Sellery has excelled at using new media to increase outreach beyond the Church doors via his website, blog posts, and podcasts.
Image: Jean Germain Drouais [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons