Miracles are real and they are powerful. In fact, when all is said and done you will learn that God’s miracles are more numerous than you imagine. They may not be big miracles but they are God’s grace around us.
However, as much as miracles are real and they present dramatically the reality of God’s love that touches our lives everyday, counting on miracles is not a tool good for evangelization and one of the reasons is what follows today’s Gospel. If you continue to read on and see what happens, you learn that raising Lazarus from the dead only angers the pharisees and eventually not only do they plot to kill Jesus, they plot to kill Lazarus because people were coming to know Christ through him.
I always ask when that reading comes up: “How evil do you have to be to want to kill someone who was raised from the dead?” This describes the hard-heartedness of the pharisees.
Jesus actually explains in the parable of the rich man and the other Lazarus that even if someone were to raise from the dead, if one is not listening to the words of Moses, he will not change. The lives of the pharisees clearly illustrate this. So, miracles may interest us, we can be fascinated by the stories and I have experienced some interesting miraculous experiences in my life as I am sure many if not all of you have, but they are not the major tool for converting others.
This is important, especially in the English speaking communities of our nation, because, people will say that if we bring in a priest who does Charismatic healing, this will attract people to the parish. Yes, that is true, for one night, but true conversion is something that involves a change of heart and realization that Christ is bringing us closer to Him. Further, who are the people who will tell you about miracles in their lives? People who already believe. We pray for others. We pray for people’s health in our lives, we pray for many things. One reason is that we already believe. Therefore, miracles are important, but again they are not a good tool for converting others.
What is a good tool for converting others? Prayer, of course, that is always essential, and living your faith powerfully. What is more interesting is not giving up when things go wrong and not giving up on others when things go wrong with them. Actually, when things go wrong, bring those issues to your prayer and allow God to work through these in your life. When you do that, your life will reflect an inner strength and a power that may not seem miraculous to others, but it will transform you.
This is where you encounter Christ in a powerful way and choose to live Christ when others would have walked away. That speaks volumes to others and to yourself.
Fr. Roger Luis of Canção Nova in Brazil teaches that if you read the Bible carefully, the Lord calls us to do one thing: persevere. It is in our perseverance that we discover the power of Christ’s Spirit in our most painful times. Those times prepare us to grow closer to Christ and to lead others to Him through our witness in our most painful times.
There is a great anecdote I read this week, that does not indicate a conversion but a healing and I would say miraculous as well, but not one with lots of fireworks, per se. I read it via a link on the Drudgereport, but apparently it is the cover story in Esquire Magazine. (I do not subscribe to Esquire.) Written by Eric Sullivan, it is an interview with actor Shia LaBeouf. (Reader discretion is advised) He tells of trying to rehabilitate his life and his image today and of a moment when he experienced his conversion not yet to Christianity, hopefully that will come, but to healing.
You may have heard about a rather disturbing and public arrest he had in Georgia. He was there to film a movie The Peter Butter Falcon. He was verbally abusive to the officers who arrested him. The next day, released from jail, he had to go on set. His co-star is Zachary Gottsagen, who Eric Johnson described as a thirty-two year old actor with Down's Syndrome. While other actors never addressed Shia LaBeouf’s arrest, the minute Zachary arrived, he went right to Mr. LaBeouf and confronted him. Zachary even tried to talk to him about God.
LaBeouf explained that Zachary is incapable of not being a straight shooter and “I don’t believe in God... But did I see God? Did I hear God? Through Zack, yeah. He met me with love, and at the time, love was truth, and he didn’t pull punches.”
LaBeouf went into rehab and describes that moment with Zachary that changed his life. Was it miraculous, I would say yes, and I am sure the seeds of that moment bear great fruit in LaBeouf’s life. But notice there were no fireworks, there was a man who showed love to another who needed it.
This is the power of the Gospel that each and everyone of us have a calling to live. Not to enable, but to speak the truth and to live the truth in Christ because that is a powerful way to live.
We can look for miracles in our own lives and in the lives of others and they are there, but many of God’s miracles do not make the news because they are without fireworks. They are real, nevertheless. We have a calling to be channels of that grace as Zachary was in the life of Shia LaBeouf.
So be careful of looking for fireworks in the Christian life, Jesus did the most powerful miracle in raising Lazarus from the dead, but still those with hardened hearts were so blind they plotted to kill Lazarus from that moment on. But those who discovered Christ found the relationship we are all called to have with Him and to the deepest levels of our being which we then bring to others.