Monday, November 28, 2011

Wishes and Miracles

I’ve written some about the miracles which have occurred in my life, and most recently had a guest-post by someone who proclaimed a miracle in her life, but over the weekend I was reading some of the sermons by Bl. John Henry Newman (I’m almost done with the 1700-page book of his sermons). The one I read one was titled: Miracles No Remedy For Unbelief (Sermon 6, Book 8).

John Henry did not use the word wishes in his sermon, but to make his and my point more quickly, I shall. In Egypt, the Jews wished they were not slaves, and God made it so. The Jews wished they could escape the army following them into the plains, and God made it so. The Jews wished for water in the desert, and God made it so. The Jews wished for food in the desert, and God made it so. The Jews wished for meat, a particular food, and God made it so. You get my point with this list: As long as the Jews got their wishes, their list of wishes seemed to be endless. What they wished for was the genie in the lamp, a God who would do their wishes at their command, treating THEM as the Gods.

A number of things were happening here in the passages from Exodus. In the beginning the Jews wished for something which they needed, sustenance for life itself, but by the time of the latter requests, they asked for things they wanted. And a key point is that they asked for things THEY wanted, material things, which they wanted right now. They had no thought about spiritual needs, nor what God wanted, and had no thoughts about the future. Something was going on which they did not understand: Their wishes were about what they wanted, but the subsequent miracles were about what God wanted. As long as the two remained in harmony the Jews were happy. But when they wished for things contrary to the will of God, He again sent them miracles, but these miracles were in the form of punishments. One of those punishments would go on for centuries: as a result of their worshipping the golden calf, they were commanded to offer sacrifices to God of those very animals they and the pagans once worshipped, as a reminder of who REALLY was God.

John Henry points out the strangeness of this: the Jews saw gigantic miracles, the size of which has not been seen since. Plagues were sent on the whole country of Egypt. Specific children (the first born) were killed. The waters of the Red Sea parted. The largest most powerful army in the world was slaughtered, without the Jews losing a man. Food came down from heaven in the desert. Now THOSE were certainly some miracles! And yet they didn’t seem to have any impact on the Jews. The laws of nature were suspended again and again before their eyes; the most marvelous signs were wrought at the word of God’s prophets, and for their deliverance; yet they did not obey their great Benefactor at all better than men now-a-days who have not these advantages. Hard as it is to believe, miracles certainly do not make men better; the history of Israel proves it.

Advent is a time of preparation for the gift of Christmas, the gift of Jesus Himself. But while Jesus was a great gift to mankind, to each of us personally, we have to remember and focus on a key point of His coming: WHY? The Jews accepted the miracles and all God did for them, but they were too focused on WHAT they received to consider WHY they received it. Just as the Jews were being opened up to a new way of life with the Exodus, so with Jesus were we. And it is a life we must embrace, this destiny now open before us. In their wishing the Jews might have wished for everything, a heaven here on earth, but heaven is not to be here. Even Jesus only opened the doors of heaven for us, but it is not fully here. Even as God led the Jews on the pathway He intended, Jesus leads us on the pathway intended for us. But we must choose to go along that path. We must not only look at what He did, including the miracles He even does today, but why He did so. We must go along the path He laid out, the path to a growing holiness, a more heavenly existence until we obtain the final fulfillment He promised. We must grow in faith. We must change our hearts.

Let us then put aside vain excuses; and, instead of looking for outward events to change our course of life, be sure of this, that if our course of life is to be changed, it must come from within. Let us rouse ourselves and act as reasonable men, before it is too late; let us understand, as a first truth of religion, that love of heaven is the only way to heaven. Sight, like visible miracles, will not move us; else why did Judas persist in covetousness in the very presence of Christ? Let us understand that nothing but the love of God can make us believe in Him or obey Him; and let us pray Him, who has “prepared for them that love Him, such good things as pass man’s understanding, to pour into our hearts such love towards Him, that we, loving Him above all things, may obtain His promises, which exceed all that we can desire.”

Wishing for miracles? No, desire His will, His promises, which exceed all that you could wish for. It all starts with a faith, the beginning of a new course. A miracle would not indeed convert you, but it could be the first step toward thorough conversion; (and a) turning point of your life.

And then, of course my friends, once started along that path, whether miracles occur in answer to our prayers or not: Do Not Be Anxious.

4 comments:

  1. Thank You!! Excellent Post! Please keep writing!

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  2. I'll pass on your thanks, Anonymous. If anything I write here has any meaning for you, it certainly did not originate with my pea brain. If He wishes you to see something here, He will help you understand, not I. I don't plan these words; I just transcribe them as I feel I must. So as far as continuing, I would not at all be surprised if one day I stopped, and I guess that would be ok also, if it were His will.

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  3. May God continue to inspire you. Your God-given words are like honey from the rock.

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