ISSUES OF FAITH: God is in the details when it comes to miracles

THE WHOLE IDEA of miracles is sometimes hard for us to wrap our minds around.

Some of my favorite subjects to talk about or address are the miracles found in the Bible, particularly those done by the hand of Jesus.

Anyone with knowledge of these usually has a particular favorite, but there is little doubt that each one seems unique or fascinating and even mysterious in its own way.

Why he performed these miracles is another interesting subject, but there are primarily two reasons.

One is that Jesus had compassion on the people he encountered. This is Jesus in his humanity, a child raised in this world with a kinship and a love with his own.

There is the divine side of Jesus. When you encounter him, you encounter God and God is now in your midst, lest anyone be confused or unsure.

The human and divine aspects are so totally Jesus that they can bring us comfort in knowing that miracles aren’t too far away.

We pray for miracles to occur, but when the Chicago Cubs win the World Series, we should probably settle down on that miracle thing.

Miracles come from God, and we should probably remember that.

I’ll never forget sportscaster Al Michaels making the call from Lake Placid at the 1980 Winter Olympics as the U.S. men’s hockey team defeated the powerful Russians.

“Do you believe in miracles?” he shouted, as the clock wound down to zero. “Yes!” he belted.

To some, maybe, but once again, God is in the details.

Many people reacted in fear to the miracles of Jesus.

Is it any wonder? Read about them and imagine how you would react.

Some were even angry, while others marveled and started to follow this man Jesus, this totally different, amazing man. This carpenter, from the backward town of Nazareth. Joseph’s son, of all people.

How do you figure that, they scoffed and wondered. Jesus created quite a stir and a following. Strong opinions and curiosity seekers abounded, and there was much whispering and heated debate, simply about who he was.

Who could perform these signs and wonders, these miracles, if not from God, they asked.

But Jesus wept too, we know.

Are there signs today?

And what about today? Are there signs and wonders today? Miracles from God? Of course.

Many years ago, I found a book laying around our house titled “Our Lady Came to Fatima.”

I had no idea what that meant and asked my wife about it. She told me enough about Fatima that I decided to read the book. I have to say it was one of those things that changed my life.

It is the story of three children in Portugal who had a many-layered encounter with Mary, the Mother of God. This vision began May 13, 1917, virtually 100 years ago today.

She met with them on a hillside for six consecutive months, always on the 13th, with one exception. In August of 1917, the children, ages 7, 8 and 10, were being held in jail by authorities who threatened them with death if they didn’t rescind their claims.

They didn’t, they couldn’t, they said, because what they had seen and heard was true.

On October 13, 1917, at the final apparition, a miracle would be performed to show the world that the children’s messages should be heeded as though God, through Mary, was speaking to them and all the world. Yes, you may think, this is … incredible stuff.

It was a rainy day, torrential and muddy on the hillside. Pictures were taken by bystanders and newspapermen, and what you see is a sea of umbrellas — 70,000 or so — gathered, waiting.

The press and government were represented in full force, both supremely anti-clerical and proud of it. People waited in the pouring rain, as though God was counseling patience. The rain finally stopped and the clouds quietly and mysteriously parted.

Blue sky and a blazing sun shone. A journalist for O Seculo, Portugal’s largest newspaper, described what happened next.

“Before the astonished eyes of the crowd … the sun trembled, made sudden movements outside all cosmic laws. The sun ‘danced,’ according to the typical expression of the people.”

‘Miracle of the Sun’

This “Miracle of the Sun,” as it was later called, lasted for 10 to 15 minutes and was reported in newspapers around the world, including The New York Times. The muddy ground and clothes of the 70,000 were instantly dried as though it had never rained.

The messages of Fatima were warnings about our world at the close of World War 1, and a far worse war would ensue if prayer and conversion were not heeded.

“Do whatever he tells you” are Mary’s final words in Scripture (John 2:5), and in this case, it was the innocent truth of children that were given the task of reminding the world.

We really shouldn’t need a dancing sun to emphasize this or for that matter any miracle. But God loves us and wants our attention and faith, and unsurprisingly will use the littlest, most vulnerable among us as his voice.

He is a god of compassion who allows events to unfold if the faith of the people is weak.

This is a lesson for today as well, as God remains God and the witness he desires is really no further than us.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Mike Acheson is director of religious education at Queen of Angels Roman Catholic Church in Port Angeles and St. Joseph Parish in Sequim.

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