Do you believe in miracles?
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 17th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 25, 2021:
I had the great privilege of being at Fenway Park on Thursday night as the Red Sox beat the Yankees in a 10th inning walk off. It was my first time being in Fenway since before the pandemic began; and so it was a wonderful night of something resembling our former normalcy. Of course, while I was there we were remembering some great moments in this century long rivalry. Of course, the greatest moment in this Sox-Yankees relationship was the Red Sox 2004 World Series victory ending an 86 year curse. Maybe the greatest moment in sports history. Of course, with the Olympics now underway in Tokyo, I have also been thinking of some of those great sports moments. Like Michael Phelps record 23 Olympic gold medals. But, I think, the greatest Olympic moment would have to be the 1980 winter Olympics when the U.S. hockey team defeated the dominant Soviet Union for the gold medal. This rag-tag group of American amateurs handed a major upset to the seasoned Soviet team who were expected to win gold easily. That game ended with the iconic voice of Al Michaels as he shouted out, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” The U.S. hockey team in that moment accomplished what seemed to be the impossible and we still refer to this moment as the “Miracle on Ice.”
Now, of course, in the proper theological sense this was not a miracle, even though it was spectacular, but the question uttered at the end of that game speaks to us today – Do YOU believe in miracles?
We know that our secular world makes no room for miracles or spiritual realities and is instead limited only to what can be observed and verified. We are taught to be skeptical when things seem too good to be true. Today's Gospel is a good example. Some look at today’s story of the feeding of the 5,000 with skepticism. Skeptical scholars question whether or not Jesus actually fed that many people. Maybe the miracle is that everyone shared, they say. But the eyes of faith open us to the possibility that God does indeed accomplish miracles in our midst. Faith tells us that Jesus did feed a multitude, Jesus did heal those who were ill, Jesus did cast out demons, He did raise the official’s daughter and His friend Lazarus from the dead, Jesus did Himself rise from the dead, and He perhaps closer to our own experience – Jesus does offer us His real Body and Blood in the Eucharist, the forgiveness of our sins in Confession, and so much more. These things are all spectacular, and beyond the ordinary, but we believe because our faith convinces us that with God anything – in fact, everything – is possible.
In our passage today, John mentions two disciples by name: Philip and Andrew; and they for us represent two types of faith. Philip is the skeptic, not ready to accept a miracle. To the problem of all these hungry people Philip responds, “Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little,” he says. Andrew, on the other hand, makes room for miracles and so he becomes a partner in one with Jesus. Andrew says, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.” Now, Andrew was realistic enough to know that five loaves and two fish were nothing before a crowd of more than 5,000, yet he had enough faith to see that it was enough for a start. His faith helped him to see that possibility, to know that with miracles, God builds on nature. Perhaps Andrew remembered the marriage feast at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. Jesus didn’t make wine out of nothing at Cana; He made it from something – the water presented to Him. Andrew understood that it’s the disciple’s job to provide the basic something which Jesus in His love would then transform, like water into wine; or that He could multiply, like bread and fish to feed a hungry crowd. Expectant faith does not make us fold our hands, do nothing, and simply look to heaven. Rather it encourages us to make our best contribution – our own five loaves and two fish – knowing that without it there would be no miracle. You see, a miracle is not God working for us; it is God working with us and through us, and in turn us working with God.
A skeptic looks at the feeding of 5,000 and says, “That probably didn’t really happen.” But the person of faith looks and says, “5,000 people is that all? Jesus has been miraculously feeding millions, even billions of people through his Body and Blood at Mass for over 2,000 years.” Have you ever stopped to realize that you and I are part of the greatest miracle of multiplication that has ever happened, each and every time we worship? Jesus spoke those words once, 2,000 years ago, “This is my body. This is my blood,” and the Eucharist continues to be multiplied in our presence since then. At every Mass we simply offer Jesus simple bread and wine to work with, and for more than 2,000 years He continually transforms that into His true Body and Blood; His real and abiding presence in our midst.
So, we should believe in miracles, not only because we have faith, but also because we have eyes that see this miracle at every Mass, hands that touch and hold and receive this miracle, and bodies that consume that miraculous bread-become-Body over and over again.
God needs us to do our part and whatever we do, He will multiply, He will transform – often with miraculous results. If we truly believe that Jesus did heal, cast out demons, raise people from the dead, institute the Eucharist, rise from the dead – if we believe these things, just imagine what God can do in our lives if we’re open to Him.
So what have you got to offer Jesus today? He will take anything. He will take our simple prayers and transform them into glory; He will take our simple loves and multiply them into a kinder and more compassionate world; He will even take our sins and transform them into holiness of life. Whatever we bring – no matter how simple, how meager – Jesus will transform in to grace and goodness; joy and peace; happiness and holiness. But, we have to do our part.
Jesus often said, “According to your faith will it be done to you.” Let us pray today and everyday to have the expectant faith of Andrew, to be open to what God wants to do in our lives. Let us today and always bring our meager offering to the Lord with the certainty that He can change it, multiply it, transform it into a miracle. Through our faith, truly miraculous things will happen. Do you believe in miracles?
May the Lord give you peace.
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