Saturday, July 28, 2018

Do YOU believe in miracles?








HOMILY FOR THE 17th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 29, 2018:

It can be hard to pick the greatest moment in sports history. Some people might name Michael Phelps record number of gold medals making him the greatest athlete in Olympic history. Definitely, the Red Sox 2004 World Series victory ending an 86 year curse is way towards the top of the list. But, I think, for me, the greatest moment would have to be the 1980 winter Olympics when the U.S. hockey team defeated the dominant Soviet hockey team for the gold medal. This rag-tag group of American amateurs handed a major upset to the seasoned Soviet team who were expected to easily win gold. As I recall that moment you can probably still hear the voice of broadcaster 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.” I still get choked up watching the last 30 seconds of that game.

Of all of the great moments in sports history, this is probably the only one that ever asked a theological question – do you believe in miracles? – and gave the right answer – YES! 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 often 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 Bible scholars pose questions about whether or not Jesus actually fed that many people. Maybe the miracle is that everyone shared, they say. But our 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 countless people who were ill, Jesus did cast demons out of the possessed, 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, 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. In this passage, they represent these 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’s faith, 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 miracles build 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 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 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.

Jesus continues to multiply that meager offering every time we gather for the Eucharist. At every Mass we simply offer Him some bread and wine to work with, and for more than 2,000 years He continually transforms that into His very 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 it at every Mass, hands that touch and hold and receive, and bodies that consume that miraculous bread become Body over and over again. The Eucharist is the most incredible miraculous feeding of the multitude in history – and it is still going on!

God needs us to do our part and whatever we do, He will multiply, He will transform – often with miraculous results. Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can or not, you are right." The same is true of our ability to be a force of change in the world. Believers, by believing, open their lives to miracles. Skeptics block their chances of experiencing a miracle. If we truly believe that Jesus did heal, did cast out demons, did raise people from the dead, did offer the Eucharist, did rise from the dead Himself – if we believe that, just imagine what He will do in our lives and through our lives if we’re open to Him.

Jesus is just waiting to let a miracle happen through our own faith in Him. 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.

May the Lord give you peace.

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