Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Disasters and Miracles

If the Creator Spirit respects the (sometimes destructive) laws of nature and the (sometimes hurtful) decisions of people, why do miracles still happen, although rarely? In our world where many suffer unnecessarily owing to human actions, natural processes like typhoons, and their combination in ecological-social disasters, should we often hope for miracles?

A miracle is a “supernatural intervention” in the cause-and-effect sequences of the everyday world. The Roman Catholic attitude is: “openness to the possibility of miracles in principle, but skepticism toward any particular alleged miracle in practice” (Peter Berger). Catholics are open to the possibility of miracles because the Creator Spirit retains the freedom and power to intervene even as it freely abstains from gross intervention in the world of nature and humanity.

Miracles have happened though rarely. The rarity of a miracle is necessary, otherwise we will not learn to be responsible and resourceful. If during floods God will intervene to enable us to walk on water or to make our homes float safely, nobody will bother to study and learn the science of rainfall and water flows from highlands to lowlands, and everybody will be careless and lazy in leaving plastic and garbage to clog the drainage systems and letting urbanization and "development" happen haphazardly or without sustainability.

Hindi ba "sa Diyos ang awa, sa tao ang gawa"? Kapag panay ang himala (o sa Diyos lang ang gawa), ang tao'y magwawalang-bahala. (Do we not say "to God be mercy, to humanity activity"? When miracles are many, and to God alone be activity, humanity takes on irresponsibility.)

God has a purpose for the rare miracle. In the gospel of John, Christ’s miracles are aptly called “signs” (semeia in Greek) such as turning water into wine, clearing the temple, healing the sick, the disabled and the blind, feeding five thousand men, and raising Lazarus. What is vital about every miracle of Christ is its function as a sign: to inspire, strengthen faith and hope, transform attitude and mobilize acts of love and solidarity.

Christ complained about those who were developing a mania for miracles: “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe” (John 4:48). A high point of the gospel is Christ’s declaration: “Blessed are those who have not seen [wonders] and yet have believed” (20:29).

When miracles lose their rarity, they lose their effectivity. An explosion of miracles will likely lead to shallow faith. The best miracle is the significant deed, word, or experience that leads to conversion or inner transformation.

In the story of the sick and suffering Job in the Hebrew Bible, before his health and wealth were restored, the miracle happened when he confessed to God: “I know that You can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted…My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I disown what I have said and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:2-6).

Even if the real-life Job would remain poor and ill, the miracle has happened, for “as far as Job is concerned, suffering as a problem has no more significance because he has seen God with his own eyes” (Marcel Gervais).

Walang himala…
Walang himala kapag walang magbabago sa puso natin!
Makakaasa ng himala o hiwaga ng pagbabalik-loob ang sinumang masigasig maghanap nito.

No miracle happens…
No miracle happens when nothing changes in our hearts!
One can hope for the miracle of conversion when one really seeks it. The best miracle is the return or the homecoming to the deep or true self, where the Spirit of holiness, solidarity, and wisdom dwells.