In the country of Israel is a small village named Magdala. It is the village from which Mary Magdalene (of “Mary from Magdala”) was from. In the village is the Chapel of the Encounter. In the chapel is a stunning depiction of the story from today’s Gospel of Mark about Jesus curing the woman with the hemorrhage.
Do we believe in miracles? Did the miraculous accounts depicted in the Bible really happen or are they just “nice stories,” fairy tales and fables? Do miracles jive with modern science and a sophisticated mindset?
One of the key reasons given why millennials leave church is that religion isn’t scientific enough. The Public Religion Research Institute reported on this, The PRRI looked into a study by the Barna Group, a Christian-affiliated polling organization which found that millennials see a disconnect between faith and science. Our Sunday Visitor reported on similar results that were found during a study done by The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).
So, do miracles actually happen?
Years ago I attended a retreat where the retreat leader was a woman named Eileen George. Eileen was a Roman Catholic who was devoted to her Church and its teachings. She placed herself at the service of all and loved all, regardless of race, color or religion. Eileen had a strong love of Jesus Christ and a particular devotion to “God the Father” (whom she referred to as “Daddy God”). She also had terminal cancer which eventually took her life in May of 2017. She had an incredible healing ministry and never let the cancer interfere with her teaching and healing ministry and her ministry to priests.
Eileen was chosen by God to bring a simple message to all people. That message was that “God wishes to be recognized as a real father to His children, loving, gentle, caring; He wishes to be a part of their life. He is not aloof, cold, or authoritarian.”
At this retreat in Camden, Eileen was calling out a number of healings. At one point. she looked at an elderly man who was in the center isle in a wheelchair. The man had apparently been in the wheelchair for years since he could not use his legs. Eileen pointed to him and said that God wanted to heal him that day. She instructed two men to help him. the man stood and, with tentative steps, began to walk.
This wasn’t a fairy tale. This wasn’t a “myth” or a made up story. We all witnessed it. Empirical evidence. Scientifically verifiable.
Years ago, a young man was working for a “Big 8” accounting firm. He was studying for the CPA exam and was dating a delightful young woman. He also had a inkling that God might be calling him to enter the seminary. He vacillated back an forth for a long time. Finally he decided to push the issue and he bean a novena to Terese “The Little Flower.” He said, “St. Terese,if I’m supposed to go into the seminary, send me a rose.” Just to hedge his bets he then added… “And make it a yellow one.” Day one passed… day two, day three.. no rose. Finally on day 9, he went to the kitchen to prepare himself something for lunch. He opened the refrigerator and there, in a cardboard box, with a ribbon around it, was a yellow rose. He asked his sister if she know anything about it. She answered that she was going out to celebrate a birthday with a friend and decided to buy her a rose for the occasion. Strangely enough, the florist was out of red roses so she bought the yellow one instead.
Myth? Fairy Tale? Coincidence? Empirical evidence. Scientifically verifiable.
Years ago I met a mother of seven children who told be a remarkable story. She had six children and then found out that they were pregnant with their seventh child. Unfortunately the child died before he was born. She and her husband decided to name “their angel” child Gabriel. Every year, she would celebrate Gabriel’s “birthday” with one of the children. One year, she took her youngest daughter to a concert on Gabriel’s birthday. She was surprised when they arrived to find the two seats empty next to her. The concert had been sold out for months. She said to her daughter. “I’ll sit here and you can sit there and Gabriel can sit in the empty seat next to you.” A few minutes later, another mother arrived with her young son. The mother said, “Oh, look. Here are our seats. Gabriel, you sit next to the lovely young girl there.”
Coincidence? Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous. They are God’s way of telling us that he is not a fairy tale. He is real and wishes to be a real, concrete part of our lives.
In closing, when it comes to miracles, I once heard a religious sister say, “I don’t believe in miracles. I rely on them!”
Audio version of the homily is here: