What is a miracle?

Words are such plastic and slippery things. How common it is to hear comments like, It was a miracle she wasn’t hit by that bus. What is meant is that it was fortunate that the driver was so skilful in swerving so quickly. Strictly speaking, a miracle is an event that cannot be explained by any rule of nature. It runs contrary to every known human and cosmic process.

Did Jesus work miracles?

It is easy to claim that many of Jesus’ ‘miracles’ can now be explained by our modern understanding of the human psyche or by forms of literary exaggeration common to his times. Yet there are so many accounts of the blind seeing and the lame walking again.

Even more striking are the stories of the return to life of the widow of Nain’s son (Lk 7.11-17) and Lazarus, four days in the tomb and already stinking (Jn 11.1-44). That widow and those two sisters, Mary and Martha, had no illusions about death and its finality. None of these events were side-show events staged to boost Jesus’ pulling power. Each was born out of compassion for the frail human condition.

Are there such parallels today? Can we find modern miracles? Close to home, Mary McKillop, the Australian woman who founded the sisters of St Joseph, was declared a saint in 2010. Two miracles were credited to her prayer: a woman dying of leukaemia and another with inoperable lung cancer and secondaries in the brain were fully and permanently cured – all certified by rigorous medical examinations. Here in New Zealand I know of two similar cases. Miracles do happen – rare, inexplicable but historical facts.

Father Neil Vaney

Next steps

This writing is based on the content of ‘What Catholics Believe’, Booklet 3, ‘Jesus Christ’ referencing page 6. Should you like to read more just click either of the links below to download ‘Booklet 3’ or the complete set of ‘What Catholics Believe’.