Thomas Jefferson, the second U.S. president and possibly the most intelligent person ever to hold that office, didn’t much care for the miracles of Jesus.
Jefferson even created his own Bible, snipping out the miracle stories while highlighting Jesus’ lessons about life and justice. Of course, Jefferson, a deist, wasn’t a Christian. At least not as Christianity is defined, believing in the Easter resurrection.
For the rest of us, however, the miracles sprinkled through the Gospels are a compelling part of humanity’s interaction with God. And those miracles are what helped illuminate and power the fledgling apostolic church as it grew.
As we march through this Easter season toward Pentecost, similar touches of a loving God,as we discover them in our own lives, also help illuminate and power our faith.
I’ve been fortunate enough as a writer to have heard hundreds of stories of God’s touch. Miracles? Well, yes, because that’s when we can see the presence of God in what happens to us. Since the Easter season is a great time to acknowledge such events, here are a couple of nonbiblical “miracles.”
Janet, who lives in upstate New York, told me about her very elderly grandmother Evelyn who was born sickly. Part of her body never developed, and as a child she suffered terrible, debilitating seizures.
When Evelyn was 9, her mother became ill following the birth of another child. She told Janet that when doctors told the family there was no hope, Evelyn’s mother gathered the family around her deathbed for a last goodbye. Each person, including little Evelyn, went up to the bedside, one by one.
“My grandmother remembers it as though it were yesterday,” said Janet, including the horse-and-buggy ride to the house. “Her mother called her over to the bed and said, ‘Little one, I cannot take you where I am going, but from this day on you will never have another seizure.’”
And she hasn’t, said Janet.
Janet said her grandmother remains a faith-filled person. Sometimes, she said, such stores become like family legends. “I’m fortunate that my
children have had the opportunity to hear this miracle from their great-grandmother.”
War, that brutal human conflict, is also fertile ground for discovering such personal miracles.
Consider the stories of a Wisconsin man, who doesn’t want his name used, about his experiences in World War II’s Battle of the Bulge. During the fighting, his company was holding a road junction when artillery hit. A shell exploded 10 feet away, he said. He felt the concussion, but instead of being riddled with white-hot shrapnel, he was unscathed.
Later, during the same battle, he said he was again nearly killed by a mortar blast. This time, however, he was alone on the ground when he said he clearly heard a voice telling him to “get the hell out of there.” Pretty strong language for an angel, he recalls thinking.
But get out of there he did, and quickly. “I gave the order to fall back,” he said, “and we did.” The soldiers were barely out of range when the area where they had been erupted with artillery bursts. “We would have all died,” he said.
“I could tell you more,” he said, “and I thank God every night and day.”
Deists like Jefferson sometimes miss the mark when they grasp for God. They recognize correctly the force that God is in nature. But too often they fail to see his presence in our everyday lives.
The miracles we encounter in our own lives, if we can see them as such, are perhaps less a proof of faith and more a powerful reminder of it.
When you look for miracles, you’ll find them.
Tom Sheridan, a former editor of the Catholic New World, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago, and a deacon ordained for the Diocese of Joliet, Ill., writes for Catholic News Service.