There is a religious word that is often misused in the English language, and that is the word “miracle.” I call it religious, because necessarily a miracle is an act of God. It is misused because people claim so many things to be a miracle.
You even see it in television ads. I recently saw an ad for a sleeping pill in which the person on the ad claimed it was a miracle, because now they could get a full night’s sleep. No, that is not a miracle. According to my old “American Heritage Dictionary,” a miracle is “an extraordinary or unusual event that is considered to be a manifestation of the divine or supernatural power.” But more to the point, I would say that a miracle is simply the suspension of the natural order.
It is important to note that real miracles are exceedingly rare, like really, really rare, and yet if you have been paying attention, in recent months there have been a flurry of claims of the miraculous. I will make mention of three of them, all of which I actually first saw in the secular news.
This past spring the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus in rural Missouri made worldwide news with the announcement that their foundress, Sr. Wilhemina Lancaster, was discovered to be incorrupt. Lancaster, who had been dead for years, buried in a simple wooden casket which had been largely damaged due to moisture, appeared in photos to be sleeping without the slightest bit of decay. Is that a miracle? I don’t know, but it seems to be inexplicable.
Also this past spring, during Sunday Mass at the parish of St. Thomas in Thomaston, Connecticut, during the distribution of Holy Communion it became apparent that not enough hosts were consecrated, but instead of running out of hosts, more and more appeared in the ciborium, so that at the end of the Mass they actually had more than what they started out with. The Mass was livestreamed, and it is somewhat entertaining to watch the end of the Mass, when the priest, quite speechless, tries to explain what happened. This is currently being investigated by diocesan officials to determine if it was a true suspension of the natural order.
Finally, just last month on August 5, a 16-year-old girl from Spain by the name of Jimena, who had been blind for several years, was participating at World Youth Day in Portugal when, after receiving communion at the papal Mass in Fatima, Portugal, she regained her sight.
All of these supposed miracles can easily be found with rudimentary searches on the Internet. Are they actual miracles? Are they actual suspensions of the natural order? Maybe.
There are all sorts of miracles recorded in the Bible, both in the new and old testaments, from Jesus (and Peter) walking on the water to Moses splitting the Red Sea. Miracles are a part of the faith. We know it is certainly within the power of God to allow miracles to happen for all sorts of reasons, but it is important to remain somewhat skeptical.
We should do this because our imaginations are very good, and some people think they see miracles everywhere. But it is most important to note that this is not the way God usually works. As I stated at the start, miracles are extraordinarily rare. They happen, but hardly ever.
I have never experienced a true miracle (I am not addressing transubstantiation here), and chances are you have never experienced a true miracle either, but we do not have to. We do not need miracles in our faith. They might be nice from time to time, but they are not necessary.
There is a great passage from the first Book of Kings when God tells the Prophet Elijah that he would manifest himself to him, and then came a strong wind that crushed rocks, but he was not in the wind. Then there was an earthquake, but God was not there either. Finally, a raging fire happened, but God was not there. Instead, God became present to Elijah in a “tiny whispering sound.” The message is an important one. We don’t need true miracles, so we shouldn’t go looking for them. With eyes of faith, we should be able to see God in the mundane and the normal, because that is where he resides. If we don’t care to see him there, then we won’t see him, miracle or no miracle.