AUGUST 31, 2011 Ė LUKE 4:38-44

Saint Lukeís description of the miraculous healing of Simon Peterís mother-in-law has an unusual feature that invites us to reflection. When Simonís family asked Jesus to heal her, we are told that JESUS REBUKED THE FEVER, AND IT LEFT HER. The impression we are given is that our Lord personalizes the fever as if it were a free agent. Was this because he was sensitive to the role of a demon in causing the serious illness from which she suffered? We know from a later miraculous healing of an epileptic that Jesus healed by rebuking a demon with a direct command addressed to the demon considered as the cause of his illness. In any case, our Lord was conscious of possessing an effective power to heal in a manner that far transcends the laws of nature. He often, through compassion, used this power in healing a variety of afflictions. He was so endowed with this marvelous gift that he confidently transmitted it to his chosen apostles who made many converts when they too performed such miraculous healings in the name of Jesus.

One of the purposes of such miracles, as I see it, is to teach an important lesson concerning the nature of the world we are part of. This material world is not self-sustaining. It remains open in its deepest level of existence to Divine action. God not only created the universe, He sustains it in existence and continues to influence by His interventions as the Hebrew Scriptures make clear. We read, for example, in the prophet second Isaiah: "He has stretched out the heavens llke a cloth, spread them like a tent for men to live in. He reduces princes to nothing; he annihilates the rulers of the world." Note the change to the present tense as he declares that God acts in history as a regular thing. Not only in miracles that were performed by various Hebrew figures such as Moses, but also in history and in peopleís lives. Of course, many who think of themselves as modern and sophisticated, deny the reliability of such inspiration and miraculous powers; they rationalize them away to their own satisfaction. Their belief in materialism and atheism is based on an act of faith on their part, not on science. The influence of such liberal, materialism has been rapidly spreading in our own country and has already undermined belief in God in wide areas of formerly Christian countries. For in our time and in our Western culture the claim is increasingly urged that the universe is self-contained and is wholly self-sustaining. It is widely asserted that it has no need of a personal Creator for its origin and its continuing in existence. In short, the material world is considered as an absolute and to be the whole of existing reality. This strain of thinking is having wide influence on the values and politics that are strongly influential in our present society and have been increasingly adopted by the liberal press, by the professors in our Universities, by the liberal politicians who make our laws.

In spite of its claims, however, such convictions are a form of faith, and based on a prior choice that is masked, often remaining quite unconscious. There is no such thing as a bare objective fact; every objective encounter can be known only through some interaction that is known through perception. Every event or natural finding that is experienced is an interaction of a subjective self, a knowing subject, who contributes something of the personal to the knowledge gained by experience. The event and the data it supplies take on meaning only in a human subject, a self, whose way of perceiving and interpreting depends on a broad variety of interior factors. A recent instance that illustrates this truth is the medical report of an American physician in Massachusetts who examined the ten-year-old girl healed of an incurable disease after her father commended her to the intervention of Pope John Paul II. The doctor, not a Catholic, affirmed that she was fully healed against all expectations, and he was unable to give any medical explanation. His reaction as expressed was not an act of faith but rather one of perplexity. The girlís father, on the other hand, and the priests at the Vatican perceived her healing as an intervention by God in response to the intercession of John Paul and so accepted it as proof of holiness required for his canonization..

In this and similar miraculous healings, it is not the substance of the healed person that is altered for the better but the state of the body. Here at this Eucharist we are celebrating a supernatural intervention by God that is a uniquely great miracle in that the very substance of bread and wine is transformed so as to become the Body and Blood of the Risen Savior. It is God Himself who effects this transubstantiation, as this change is termed, for He has given the priests the power so to serve as the instrument of His personal intervention by way of sharing his own person with us in an act of loving faith. May our way of living be such as is worthy of His love thus given to us even now.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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