Many Catholics believe the reason that each of
the four evangelists allots so much space for Jesus' miracles is to prove
beyond doubt that He's God. Serious students of Scripture tell us that's not
Christians believed Jesus was God before they
even heard of the Gospels. By the time the Gospels were composed, Jesus'
divinity was taken for granted, and the Scriptures were directed to
believers, not unbelievers.
Besides, in the biblical world, working
miracles wasn't necessarily a sign of divinity. A near-contemporary of
Jesus, Apollonius of Tyana, supposedly worked hundreds of
"documented" miracles, yet he never claimed to be a god.
The evangelists included miracles in their
narratives to demonstrate what kind of a God Jesus is. When we modern
Christians feel an urge to surface God's attributes, we just turn to the
appropriate section of the catechism, track down the proper question and
find a comprehensive list of God's characteristics.
We forget that the people who produced the
Christian Scriptures had no catechisms; they had only their experiences of
the risen Jesus, present and working in their lives, experiences the writers
wanted their readers to reflect upon. Only by surfacing how Jesus changed
their lives could they surface what the divine Jesus was like.
That's why it shouldn't surprise us that in
Sunday's Gospel (Mark 7:31-37), Mark invites us to think about how Jesus, as
God, both opens our ears and gives us the ability to speak.
Those who first heard this passage were amazed
their faith in Jesus had enabled them to hear things they never heard
before, not because the sounds hadn't been hitting their ears, but because
they didn't have the ability to distinguish those specific sounds from
The risen Jesus had pronounced "Ephphatha!"
over each of them. Because they now heard new things, they were also able to
speak new things, things that almost no one around them spoke.
James gives us an example of these new insights
in the second reading (James 2:1-5). Because each Christian felt God's love
in a special way through the presence of Jesus among them, they began to
hear the cries of the poor in a way they had never heard before. Once they
discovered that they're all equal in Jesus, they knew they never again could
discriminate. Once our ears are open to new voices, we begin to act in new
No wonder the early Church loved to quote the
first reading (Isaiah 35:4-7a). They had experienced the very things the
prophet had assured his people Yahweh would eventually bring about:
"Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be
cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute
They had stepped into a new world. It was like
"streams [bursting] forth in the desert and rivers in the steppe."
They were able to live like they'd never lived before.
Jesus didn't come just to get us into heaven.
He came also to help us enjoy a life we couldn't imagine experiencing
without His being in it, a life that will carry us into eternity with Him.
Jesus' miracles are just one way second- and
third-generation Christians gave voice to the newness they had achieved in
their Christ-filled lives.
It would be interesting, after reflecting on
Sunday's Gospel, to compose some new miracles that mirror our experiences of
Jesus' changing our lives. We might come up with a few the evangelists never