A Host of Mighty Miracles

As Christians we believe in miracles because the Gospels tell us of miracles performed by Jesus. No founder of any other world religion ever performed miracles, nor did any disciple of such founders ever claim that such power was possessed by the founder. Abraham, whose legacy of belief in one God includes the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths, was not a miracle worker. But if the God of Abraham is the true God, and He intended to establish a true religion, it would need to be a religion in which miracles would sooner or later be claimed as an authentic sign of that religion’s divine origin; in the case of Judaism, by the miracles of Moses; in the case of Christianity, by the miracles of Jesus.

A miracle might be defined as an intervention by God in the natural order of things. If that is an adequate definition, then the entire universe and every particular thing in it is a miracle since God by his action created and sustains all things natural. If God for one moment withdrew his creative power from the universe it would collapse into the nothingness from which it came. What we have come to regard as natural, rather than miraculous, is simply the regular pattern that the miracle of creation follows in our daily affairs. If that pattern were interrupted, if a natural law seems to be broken by the appearance of a miracle, that is only because God has directly altered the course of the first and original miracle, to which we are accustomed, into a new one that naturally startles us by its novelty and force. If we are inclined to doubt miracles that we have only heard about as opposed to witnessed, it is only because we are inclined to be doubtful and even afraid of that with which we are unfamiliar.

Thomas Jefferson could believe that Jesus was divinely inspired, yet he could not believe either in the miracles performed by Jesus or in his divinity. Jefferson’s skepticism is typical of those trained in ordinary logic. It perhaps did not occur to him that a God powerful enough to perform the miracle of creating the universe could not be prevented from performing another miracle, that of entering His own creation and thereby altering its course.

When we speak of a newborn child as a miracle, we assert this miraculous power of God to bring matter and spirit together in the human person, body and soul. This powerful sensation of a miracle just performed at the conception of a child is perhaps more strongly felt by a woman than by a man, since she is the primary vehicle by which the miracle is accomplished. This helps to explain why the religious instinct in women who have had children is hard to stamp out, even when great forces go to work to destroy it. Mothers have witnessed up close and personal the miraculous making of a human soul. The person who is not religious sees this entirely as a natural event, as no different in its essence than the birthing of any other creature in the animal kingdom.

The general understanding of a miracle, according to skeptics, is that it must be something akin to pulling a rabbit out of a hat … something magical. Not so. The miracle of the creation of the universe took billions of years according to current cosmological theory, and is ongoing to this day. The miracle of the Son of God Incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ on earth lasted 33 years. The miracle of Christ’s Church enduring two thousand years, though pronounced dying or dead a thousand times by a thousand confident critics, ought to give pause for reflection.

The Two Greatest Miracles

No doubt there have been false claims of miracles in the history of the world. That is no more an argument against authentic miracles than the discovery of fake physicians would prove there are no authentic physicians. However, a miracle to be authentic must be an event that has been witnessed, and the witnesses must be believable. If they are liars or delusional, that fact would sooner or later be inevitable and easy for all to see.

But it is not a fact, and certainly not provable, that the witnesses of the miracles of Christ were liars or delusional. If anything, the argument should go in the other direction. The authors of the New Testament have proven by the genius of their inspiration, by the clearly profound truths that moved them, by the absence of chicanery or mean-spiritedness in their writings, that they could be neither liars nor delusional. Again, they have proven by their willingness to be persecuted and maligned and brutally slain for their beliefs that they truly believed in what they reported concerning the “good news” that had come into a miserable world.

There are two central miracles in the Gospels which, if we do not believe in them, would make it virtually impossible to believe in all the others. The first is the miracle of the Incarnation. The second is the miracle of the Resurrection. The two great miracles are celebrated during the two great holy days: Christmas and Easter.

Now on various occasions Christ claimed to be one with the Father. If we do not believe this is possible, we have to conclude, as some of the Jews did, that Jesus suffered from delusions of grandeur. “The Father and I are one,” Christ said to the Jews in John 10:30. “The Jews again picked up rocks to stone him. Jesus answered them, ‘I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of these are you trying to stone me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘We are not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God.” They understood very well what he had claimed, and the fact he made no effort to correct their “misunderstanding” speaks for the rightness of his claim that he and the Father were indeed One.

Now why would the Father be one with the Son in the person of Jesus? As Bishop Fulton Sheen once put it: “Love tends to become like the one loved; in fact, it even wishes to become one with the one loved. God loved unworthy man. He willed to become one with him, and that was the Incarnation.”

Moreover, the proof that Christ’s love was genuine was not just in his preaching of love, but also in the practice of what he preached. He put himself to the test after he said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Having given up his life on the cross was the proof of his love. But the joy of our faith is not derived from his sacrifice. Our joy is in what he proved to us by his resurrection from the dead; that we too could, with him, defeat the sting of death Satan had brought into the world; and that, in rising from the dead, we would be once and for all made one with the One who loves us and the One we were meant to love.

God made Nature herself to be a mirror image of the great miracle of Resurrection. Every year brings dormancy or death to what lives. It is hardly possible to believe that when nature sleeps in the Fall, and seems forever doomed beneath the snows of Winter, there could ever rise again in the Spring the fullness and passion of life blooming hot and passionate in the summer sun.

Alleluia! We say, because why should nature die and be born again and again?


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Carl Sundell is Emeritus Professor of English and Humanities at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Massachusetts. The author of several books including The Intellectual and the Gunman, Four Presidents, and Shaw versus Chesterton, he has published various articles in New Oxford Review and Catholic Insight. He currently resides in Lubbock, Texas where he is developing a book of short essays for students of Catholic apologetics