The Miracle Worker Confirms the Truth of Our Faith
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
This will not be an ordinary conference. Our
purpose here is to show that Christ continues performing miracles now on earth,
no less than He did during His public ministry in Palestine.
All the miracles that Jesus performed during
His visible stay on earth were done by His divine power as the Incarnate God.
But these wonders, as the Apostle John calls them, were performed through
Let me be even more specific. Our focus in
this conference is to concentrate on the wonders that Jesus continues to work
in our day, no less than He did two thousand years ago in what we now call
Asia Minor. These signs and wonders that Jesus performed during His visible
stay on earth were mysteriously conditioned on the faith of His contemporaries.
Remember Christs statement to a group of people who were listening to what
He said, but they did not believe that He was what He claimed to be, the promised
Messiah who was no less than the living God who became man. He told them,
A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and in his own
house, and among his own kindred. And he could not do any miracles there,
because of their lack of faith (Mk 6:4-5).
Jesus is now on earth, the same identical
Christ who performed astounding miracles among His contemporaries in Palestine.
But on one condition: that they believed. He is now among us in the Holy
Eucharist, the Almighty Son of God who became the Son of Mary. He is ready
and willing to work wonders no less astounding through the Holy Eucharist.
But there is one condition, we must believe.
What is a Miracle?
We commonly define a miracle as a sensibly
perceptible effect, surpassing the powers of nature, produced by God to witness
to some revealed truth of our faith.
At this point, I wish to make a clear distinction
between what we commonly identify as a miracle, and what is really a miracle
because it surpasses the powers of human nature.
In ordinary language we speak of the sudden
healing of a painful disease, the sudden restoration to a paralytic of the
use of his limbs, the restoration of sight to a person who was born blind,
and bringing back to life of a dead man--as miracles. So they are, and the
Gospels are filled with accounts of such miraculous deeds performed by the
Savior during the three years of His public visible ministry in Judea and
So also today, one of the Churchs conditions
for canonizing a person who had lived a holy life is that some miracles are
proved to have been performed through his or her intercession. So too the
sudden cures at Lourdes are considered miraculous because they exceed the
ordinary powers of nature.
Over the twenty centuries of the Churchs
history, there have been countless physical miracles that Christ has performed
by His divine power exercised through the Holy Eucharist. In fact, the sick
and the lame and the blind healed in France are not only bathed in the waters
of the Shrine in Lourdes. They are also, and most importantly, blessed with
a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament.
All the above are miracles indeed. But here
I wish to concentrate on the signs and wonders that Christ works in the souls
of His believers through His bodily presence in the Holy Eucharist.
We are not accustomed to call the practice
of supernatural virtues as miraculous. Yet, a moments reflection tells us
that the very word supernatural means super, above or beyond the powers
of nature. In other words, divine grace confers supernatural powers on us
human beings, enabling us to do what is humanly impossible.
It is in this sense that I wish to share with
you how the Holy Eucharist is the source of miraculous powers. Christ in the
Blessed Sacrament gives us super-human energy by which we can practice the
virtues that He expects of His followers. These virtues are beyond the capacity
of human nature to perform. For the present, let us limit ourselves to just
four virtues: charity, chastity, patience and fortitude.
A standard definition of charity in the modern
dictionary tells us that charity is help or relief given to the poor; it is
a fund or institution that helps the poor; it is an act or feeling of good
will or affection. All of these are true enough. But they are not what Christ
tells us to do if we are to be His followers.
By Catholic standards, charity is the practice
of love for those who do not love us. It is doing good to those who oppose
or even hate us. It is the loving acceptance of rejection or opposition or
even hatred from people with whom we live or among whom we labor.
In the Saviors own words, we are to love
one another even as He has loved us. How much has He loved us? He loved us
even to dying on the cross in order to save us from the tragic consequences
of our sins.
The super-human charity that Christ expects
of His followers is to be reflected in their selfless love as members of the
Christian family. The adjective selfless is part of our faith. Husbands
are to love their wives, and wives their husbands; parents their children,
and children their parents; brothers and sisters are to love one another--selflessly.
How selflessly? As selflessly as Christ has loved us, even to shedding His
blood on the cross out of love.
Dont tell me this is easy. Easy, do I say?
It is impossible, and I mean impossible. So true is this that no religion
in history, even pre-Christian Judaism, has ever demanded the practice of
such selfless charity as Jesus Christ prescribed for His followers as a condition
for their salvation.
Is it any wonder, then, that on the same Holy
Thursday night when He gave us this humanly impossible commandment, He instituted
the single most important means we need to put this commandment into practice?
What was it that converted the pagans of Rome
to Christianity? They did everything in their power to prevent Christianity,
I dont say from spreading, but even from taking root in the first centuries
of Christian history. But what happened? So far from eradicating these hated
Christians, their pagan contemporaries were converted to the religion which
they despised. What brought on their conversion? It was the practice of heroic,
shall we say miraculous charity by these once despised followers of the Nazarene.
Where did Christians get the strength to love
those who hated them? Where? From the Holy Eucharist. It is a matter of historical
record that the early Christians assisted at Mass and received Holy Communion
every single day. They knew that, without the Eucharistic Lord offering Himself
in the Holy Sacrifice and giving Himself to them in Communion, they could
not--and I mean could not--have even survived as Christians, not to say have
witnessed to their faith, even to dying a martyrs death.
The sexual drive is the most imperious in
the human body. It was implanted by the Creator in order to provide for the
reproduction of the human race. Since the fall, however, this desire is no
longer under such mastery as it would have been if sin had not entered the
The sexual instinct is therefore God-given
and noble. But it can become a flaming furnace and a destructive hurricane.
Seen in this light, it is not surprising that Christ should have added what
He did, after saying that a man commits adultery if he even looks at a woman
If your right eye should cause you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part
of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell (Mt 5:29).
What the Savior did was to place chastity
where it has been ever since the dawn of Christianity. It is the virtue that
not only controls the sex appetite, but provides us with the means of offering
God a sublime self-sacrifice.
This has been the teaching of authentic Christianity
for two thousand years. It is the very opposite of what our sex-intoxicated
world is teaching its followers. In our day, the practice of Christian chastity
is not only difficult. It is, and I mean every syllable of this sentence,
Fornication and adultery, masturbation and
sodomy are the normal practice of millions in our once Christian country.
Those who still believe that sodomy is a sin that destroys whole nations are
now said to be mentally sick. They are suffering from homophobia. Children
throughout America are now subject to sex education that teaches them that
some people are naturally homosexual and they should be treated accordingly.
Priests, and even bishops, are defending sodomy. Yet we wonder why in one
diocese after another Catholics are becoming a vanishing minority.
There is only one way that we can remain chaste
according to the will of the Incarnate God who was conceived and born of the
Virgin Mary. It is only through the Holy Eucharist that we can obtain the
strength we need to remain chaste, in every state of life, in a world that
has literally gone mad with sexual insanity.
The English word patience comes from the
Latin word pati, which means to suffer. Patience enables us to endure
present evils without sadness or resentment in conformity with the will of
God. Patience is mainly concerned with bearing the evils caused by another.
For the sake of clarity, we might note that there are three grades of patience:
to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make
progress in virtue, and even to desire the cross and afflictions out of love
for God and accept them with spiritual joy.
Needless to say, patience is not only a difficult
virtue. It is, to repeat ourselves, impossible to practice by our own natural
If there is one message that Christ kept repeating
to those who believe in Him, it was, and is, to suffer patiently in what we
correctly call this valley of tears. He told us that if we are to be His disciples,
we must carry our daily cross and follow Him.
Talk about patience. In the eighth Beatitude,
Jesus tells us, Blessed are you when men reproach you, and persecute you,
and, speaking falsely, say all manner of evil against you, for my sake. Rejoice
and exult, because your reward is great in heaven; for so did they persecute
the prophets who were before them (Mt 5:11-12).
As we saw, patience is especially the experience
of suffering that other people cause us by their actions, their words, their
silence, even by the look in their eyes.
Except for the grace of God, we could not
practice the patience that Jesus Christ expects of those who call themselves
His believers. This could have been said from the first days of Christianity.
But in our day, it should be etched in bronze. We are living in the
Age of Martyrs.
More Catholics have shed their blood for the
faith since the year nineteen hundred, than in all the previous nineteen centuries
before, put together. Yet, as we know, there are two kinds of martyrdom. There
is the martyrdom of blood and the living martyrdom of living out the eighth
Beatitude, not only in patience, but in merciful charity toward those who
are causing us so much spiritual pain.
We return to the theme of our conference.
We are speaking on the Holy Eucharist as the Miracle Worker. To be stressed
is that the Miracle Worker in the Eucharist is no one less than Jesus Christ.
He told us not to be afraid, for I have overcome the world. He also told
us, I am with you all days, even to the end of the world.
This is where our faith becomes indispensable.
We must believe that in every Mass it is Jesus Christ, true God and true man,
who offers Himself to His heavenly Father no less than He did on Calvary.
On Calvary, He won for us the graces that we so desperately need to surrender
our wills to His divine will, especially when, as on Calvary, He allows human
beings to crucify us as they crucified Him. The miraculous graces we need
to endure suffering patiently were merited on the first Good Friday. These
graces are being conferred on us every time that Mass is offered throughout
the world, and every time we receive the body and blood of Christ in Holy
There are two words in English that are almost
perfect synonyms, namely fortitude and courage. I chose to speak of miraculous
fortitude rather than courage, because fortitude, from the Latin fortitudo,
is the Catholic Churchs official name for the moral virtue that every Christian
receives at baptism.
Fortitude is firmness of spirit. As a virtue,
it is a steadiness of will in doing good, in spite of difficulties being faced
in the performance of ones duty.
There are two levels to the practice of fortitude.
One is the suppression of inordinate fear, and the other is the curbing of
recklessness. The control of fear is the main role of fortitude. Hence, the
primary effect of fortitude is to keep unreasonable fears under control and
not allow them to prevent us from doing what our mind says should be done.
But fortitude also moderates rashness, which tends to lead headstrong people
to excess in the face of difficulties and dangers.
There is a sense in which fortitude is a natural
virtue. But the fortitude of which we are here speaking is eminently supernatural.
In fact, fortitude is not only a moral virtue which is infused into the soul
at baptism. It is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which gives the baptized
person a special strength of will.
As a supernatural gift, fortitude confers
an extraordinary readiness to undergo trials for love of God or in fulfillment
of the divine will. This gift gives us the courage to bear difficulties, even
for many years. It enables us to remain firm in carrying arduous tasks to
their completion. It enables us to persevere in a lifetime fidelity to our
vocation in spite of heavy trials or disappointments sent by God. Most importantly,
the gift of fortitude makes us happy in being privileged to suffer persecution
or humiliation in union with Christ and for the sake of His name.
All of this we know is both the virtue and
the gift of fortitude. What is not so well known is that on both levels, fortitude
must be constantly nourished by the grace of God. Divine grace for the human
will to practice even ordinary fortitude is indispensable.
Immediately two questions arise. Is ordinary
fortitude sufficient for us Catholics in our day? And what is the principal
source of the grace we need to practice the heroic courage to sustain us in
our fidelity to Jesus Christ?
Heroic Fortitude. Anyone living in a country like ours has no illusions.
Ordinary courage, even in professing our faith, is not enough. Pressures from
the de-Christianized society in which we live are beyond merely human power
As Pope John Paul II makes so pathetically
clear, we are now living in an age which separates faith from morality. As
Christians become de-Christianized, their moral judgment becomes less and
less based on the Gospels. What Christian believers today must do is face
the facts of life. The world in which they live has become alarmingly un-Christian
or even anti-Christian in its way of living. We believers must be convinced
that Christianity is not simply a set of propositions to be accepted by the
mind. Rather, faith is a lived knowledge of Christ, a living memorial of His
commandments. It is the truth to be lived out. Our faith is to be a decision
which involves our whole existence. It is an encounter, a dialogue, a communion
of love between the believer and Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the
Life. Our faith involves an act of trusting abandonment to Christ, which enables
us to live as He lives in fulfilling love of His father, and of us, His brothers
and sisters. Our faith further calls for a lifetime commitment to grow in
the likeness of Christ.
Thus our faith becomes a witness to the world
as we testify to everyone whose life we touch that we are followers of Jesus
Christ. Our faith finally is to lead us to prepare for the supreme witness
of martyrdom, ready to lay down our lives to testify that Jesus Christ is
indeed God become Man, who died out of love for us on the Cross.
Does it require courage to practice and profess
our faith in the paganized society of our day? Does it require fortitude?
These are not academic questions. They are expressions of hard-core reality.
That is why the Vicar of Christ speaks and
writes at such length about the practice of martyrdom. In more prosaic language,
he is telling the faithful to practice heroic fortitude.
The Fortitude of Martyrdom. We
are living in The Age of Martyrs. I never tire repeating to one audience after
another that there have been more men, women and children who shed their blood
in witness to Christ in our century than in all the centuries from Calvary
to nineteen hundred A.D. put together.
As we close this conference, I would like
to ask five simple questions and briefly answer each one in sequence. All
the answers are based on the historic document of Pope John Paul II, appropriately
entitled The Splendor of Truth.
What is the teaching of the New Testament
on martyrdom? In the New Testament,
Jesus Christ is the primary witness of dying for the truth. He was followed
by the Apostles James, Peter and Paul, then a litany of Christian believers
who laid down their lives rather than deny that Jesus Christ is the living
God who became man, died on Calvary and rose from the dead with the promise
that those who believe in Him will see Him for all eternity.
How is martyrdom a witness to both Gods
holiness and mans personal dignity? Martyrdom witnesses to Gods holiness by testifying
to the grace which He gives the martyr. It also testifies to mans personal
dignity because our highest act of virtue is to suffer martyrdom rather than
disobey a divine moral law.
How is martyrdom a witness to faith in
true life? Martyrdom assures a person
of everlasting glory as the reward for dying in body rather than committing
How is martyrdom an outstanding sign of
the holiness of the Church? Martyrdom shows what generosity the Churchs members
are willing to make rather than deny their faith or disobey law of God. In
this way, they witness to the Churchs credibility as a divinely inspired
source of sanctity.
Is there such a thing as a living martyrdom?
Yes, when, as St. Gregory the Great teaches, we love the difficulties of
this world for the sake of eternal rewards.
All that we have said about fortitude would
be so much pious talk unless we had access to the strength to profess and
practice our faith with the courage of martyrs. Where do we obtain this strength?
Only from Jesus Christ, who is present on earth in the Holy Eucharist. Except
for the Blessed Sacrament, there would be no martyrs in Christian history.
Except for martyrs, there would be no growth in the Catholic Church. St. Augustine
could not have been more clear. In The City of God, he tells us, The
martyrs were bound, imprisoned, scourged, racked, burnt, rent, butchered and they multiplied.
Mary, Mother of the Holy Eucharist, obtain for us the
miracles we need to remain faithful to your Divine Son. Ask Him to give us
the grace of living lives of heroic charity and chastity, patience and fortitude.
We promise to follow what you told the servants at Cana, Do whatever He tells
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