It may seem like in biblical time, raising from the dead was a common occurrence... We heard about two such events in the first reading and gospel. We all remember Lazarus ...and of course, Jesus raised himself. You may also remember that even Peter and Paul each were credited with bringing somebody back to life in the book of Acts. But while it may SEEM like it happened a lot... I didn't. These were EXTAORDINARY events. When someone raised from the dead, it was a sign of.. A song of well, something... Of what? In the first reading the understanding of the sign came from the widow "you are a man of God. The word of the LORD comes truly from your mouth.”
In the gospel, the understanding of the sign was even more impressive, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.”
That sign held a lot of meaning to the Israelites... It was prophesied that Elijah, the great prophet of old times, would return before the Messiah came... So the people weren’t really looking for the messiah… they were looking for Elijah… and the fact that Jesus performed the exact miracle that Elijah did, (raising the only son of a widow) would have raised more than eyebrows... It raised hope that the time of fulfillment of the prophecies had arrived.... that God had indeed visited his people...
As always, we gotta ask... Why do WE care? Why do we tell these same stories over and over each year?
Deep down... We all are looking for proof… proof that Jesus was God, that he really does care about US personally, and all this religion stuff is not just some made-up rules to keep us from having fun. Even people with the deepest faith still search for proof that they haven't been misled somewhere along the line. We all want We want proof…That's why we look for miracles. It's why we travel to places like Lourdes and Medjugorie... It's why we read the scriptures and various books and CDs and videos... We are always looking for that proof… for that confirmation of what we have dared to believe. I mean, really, why would anybody believe that a Jewish carpenter rose from the dead 2000 years ago and why would we believe that he is God and that he started the church and gave us the Eucharist to sustain us. Seems like a pretty well developed story, if you ask me.
But somewhere along the line, we experienced Jesus. We felt his presence and recognized the miracles he works in our own lives. For some of us that experience came in a retreat. For others it was the birth of their first child. For others, God seemed to give them a special gift of the Holy Spirit so that they believed almost without effort or question... That they could feel and believe the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We envy people who have that kind of faith… because all of us keep searching…. For proof.
Paul instinctively knew this when he wrote the letter to the Galatians... He prefaced his letter with all the facts that prove his credentials. He had every reason to boast of his human accomplishments... But instead, he was teaching about a man/god who had risen from the dead… what would possibly make people listen? He basically was saying… ok –maybe you don’t believe all of the miracle stories you’ve heard …you’re just not sure it’s true… but look… I’m not just some fly-by-night religious freak. I’ve got credentials! He needed people to recognize HIM as a prophet or apostle... so they would recognize the truth is his message of grace. The message is: God has visited his people!
But, We all keep looking. We search the scriptures. We talk to people who seem to have a direct line to God. Once in a while we feel like we have grasped something… some piece of truth that give us some proof…. So We pass along great quotes and insights which give us a faith-boost. We post things on Facebook... Tweet them on twitter.... Forward emails and links to great YouTube videos. This is important, both for us – and for those we share them with.
There is another way we can all help each other... And ourselves.... And that is to share YOUR story. All of us have been visited by God. We've seen minor or even Major miracles in our lives... And some of us are blessed enough to be able to recognize those miracles. The rest of us might recognize the miracles too... If we knew where to look. Just like the people in Jesus’ time, if we’re not LOOKING for Jesus, we may not recognize him. We gotta be LOOKING for miracles. I think the best way to learn where to look for miracles is to hear about others experiences.
That’s how the people of biblical times dealt with their doubts… they told the stories… ‘hey – remember the time that Elijah raised that guy from the dead?’. The stories were their life-line to keep them connected to God throughout the stormy history of Israel.
So it should be for us… Share your stories... ‘Remember that time we were at our wits end at the hospital waiting for news… how God sent this couple at just the right time’. Remember our sister who was scared to death by the cat-scan - but... How the cancer shrunk beyond the hope of the doctors... Remember how even in the worst circumstances, it was our faith that carried us through....
Most likely you are still waiting for the miracle … it feels like God has abandoned you… the failing health… the failing marriage… Yes... We need to share our sufferings too. We all suffer. Being Christian does not give us immunity. But it is those times of suffering that are our greatest opportunity for God to act. By sharing the stories of our sufferings, we let other people know that they are not alone in their sufferings. The stories are our lifeline. They are our proof that God has visited.
Our Proof doesn't always come in extreme ways...like raising from the dead. More often, the Holy Spirit reveals himself in the mundane. For example, this week, I had already read the readings and was mulling over how the raising from the dead was proof that Elijah and Jesus were doing the work of God. I had this rolling around in my head for several days.... Then Tuesday night I got my latest CD in the mail and guess what the title was....... “Prove it, God!... And He Did!” I don't see that as mere coincidence... It was a small miracle and it pointed me where to take this homily. I no longer believe in coincidence.... A cooincidence is just when God tries to remain anonymous... It is really a GOD incident! By the way – this CD is amazing…I’ve already listened to it twice. Patty Schneier from St. Louis tells HER story… and it’s well-worth hearing. I’ll definitely get some to put at the doors as a CD of the month.
Do you experience little miracles....little God-incidences in your life? SHARE those stories. It helps you to recognize the miracle, but it also gives other people some proof...some reason too believe...and just as important, it helps other people to understand where to look and what to look for. If we're not looking for God, we won't see him.
If you don't have someone else to share your story with... you can send me an email... I always love personal stories. Another way is something new we're doing as a cluster... We are putting together a book of stories from our parish. Seriously... Here is a book that was put together at another parish...and it's nothing but people sharing how God is working in THEIR lives. This is Powerful stuff. It reminds us all that God IS still at work... that he still has pity on his children. It is proof that even today.... ....God has visited his people.