“He could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands upon a few sick people and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief.” (Mark 6:5-6)
Last Sunday, we learnt that fear (negativity) is one great obstacle that prevents us from receiving the benefits of faith. Jairus had come to call Jesus to save his little daughter but before Jesus got to the house, some people brought news that the girl was dead. Jesus said to Jairus: “Do not Fear; Only Believe.”
While fear is expecting the worst to happen, faith is expecting the best. A woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage received healing the moment she touched the garment of Jesus because she was so full of expectation. Jesus said to her: “Your Faith has made you well.”
Today, our readings present other obstacles to faith which we must avoid such as hostility towards God, familiarity, falsehood and pride. Whether we like it or not, these are factors responsible for the scarcity of miracles in our churches today. Let us now examine these points in detail:
1. Miracles are Scarce When we are Hostile towards God.
Jesus came to his own country with his disciples. Unfortunately, as Jesus ministered to them, they soon began to question his credibility, i.e. his family background and the fact that they knew him simply as a carpenter. Mark tells us that they took offence at Jesus; that is, they became angry towards Jesus. As a result of their hostility, Jesus “could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them.”
When are hostile to God, we literally prevent ourselves from accessing the great miracles He has for us. It does not mean that we prevent God from doing what He wants. The fact is that God will never force His way on us. Once upon a time, Jesus sent messengers ahead of Him to a Samaritan village to make ready for Him but the villagers rejected Jesus. They would not even let Jesus pass through their village. James and John became so furious that they said: “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked James and John. And they went on to another village. (Luke 9:52-56)
God does not force His way on us because He considers us as His children; not merely His slaves. If there is one word to describe God’s relationship with mankind, it would be Love. And as St. Paul would say: “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
2. Miracles are Scare When we fail to see God in the Person of the Minister
What made the people hostile to Jesus? Was it that they did not recognize His superior wisdom? No. Their hostility was a result of their familiarity with Jesus. They took offence at Jesus because they knew him simply as the carpenter’s son; they did not recognize His Divinity. Unlike Jairus who fell on his feet in worship before Jesus (while asking for his daughter’s healing), these people considered Jesus as an impostor.
As Mark puts it: “many who heard Him were astonished, saying: ‘Where did this man (referring to Jesus as merely a man) get all this? Like these countrymen of Jesus, many Christians today have become so familiar with their ministers that they fail to see God in them. I have heard Catholics refer to their priest as “boy” or “guy”. Some of us have been in this parish now for almost five years and have never for once been to confession in the name of “how can I be confessing my sins to a man?” There is a loss of the sacred.
Some of our girls initiate amorous conversations with the priest because all they see in him is a single guy with money enough to spare. Rather than approach the priest for prayer and counselling, they come to ask for money and when he says: “I don’t have” they think he is telling lies. If Jesus could not do any mighty work in his own country because the people looked down on him, what do we expect of our priests today when we look down on them?
Some of us do not even genuflect before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament because we don’t believe that Jesus is there. We dress indecently to Church and start strolling from one end to another for attention. We openly gist and gossip even while Mass is going on. Some of us use the rosary as chewing gum and play with Holy Communion after receiving it. Some of us who work in the church even go as far as stealing from the offertory box like the case of that woman in the viral video who was picking higher denomination currencies and stuffing them inside her bra. These are signs of familiarity.
3. Miracles are Scarce When We Simply Seek to Please the People
God told Ezekiel in today’s first reading: “I send you to the sons of Israel, to a nation of rebels… they and their fathers have transgressed against me to this very day. The people also are impudent and stubborn… Whether they hear or refuse to hear, they will know that there has been a prophet among them.” (Ezekiel 2:3-5). In other words, what matters is Ezekiel’s obedience to his call, not the people’s reception.
This command given to Ezekiel should be the motto for every minister. We should be more concerned about proclaiming the message God has given to us than filling up seats in our churches. Jesus even gave a similar instruction to his disciples: “If anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it shall be more tolerable on the Day of Judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” (Matthew 10:14-15)
Our desire to please people at all costs has brought about the watering down the Gospel, the reduction of moral standards and the worship of money in the name of God. Where are the John the Baptists of our time? Where are those who can speak the truth and damn the consequences?
4. Miracles are Scarce When the Minister Becomes Proud.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul gives us a clue to one factor that could be responsible for the scarcity of miracles today. The book of Proverbs says: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18). When the minister becomes proud, he forgets that he is simply an instrument in the hand of God and begins to behave like a god in the midst of men.
Sharing his personal experience, St. Paul says: “To keep me from being too elated (that is, from becoming proud) by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
Having learnt to rely only on the grace of God, St. Paul says, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Watch out when the minister begins to boast as though he has become greater than God. As the saying goes, empty vessels make the loudest noise.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, save me from falling into the trap of faithlessness and teach me to accept rejection positively and to stand by the truth always. Amen.
Bible Study: Ezekiel 2:2-5, Psalm 123:1-4, 2nd Corinthians 12:7-10, Mark 6:1-6).