Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Dear Friends,

Being a Christian means believing in miracles.  You can’t be a Christian without believing in miracles.  Christianity absolutely demands a belief in miracles.  Because all of Christianity’s fundamental claims and doctrines are miracles, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, Salvation, and Divine Inspiration.  Miracles always belong to the realm of the divine, because God and miracles always go together.  Miracles are always wonders of the supernatural, they’re not earthly natural wonders.  There is no scientific explanation.

As an example, babies are sometimes called miraculous and while they’re beautiful, and wonderful, and great, and cute, they’re not miracles.  Instead, they’re wonders of nature, natural wonders that are completely scientifically explainable.  The Virgin Birth on the other hand, is a supernatural wonder, a heavenly wonder, a true miracle that science can’t explain.

Laws of Science are made from observations of how nature works here on earth.  Supernatural events or miracles don’t contradict natural events, because science only tells us how things operate in nature, science can’t tell us how things operate in Heaven.  The scientific method, developed at Catholic Universities in the middle ages, explains this world.  The scientific method   better helps us to understand and appreciate God’s creation.  And that is a very good thing, however, science cannot explain Heaven, science cannot explain Heaven’s inhabitants, and science cannot explain Heaven’s miracles.  And would we even want to worship a god who could be examined in such a finite way, say, under an electron microscope.  God is much more magnificent and infinite to be discovered in such a limited way.  To discover God with science would reduce him to something earthly and worldly.  But God is not of this world, He was, even before this world even existed.  He is transcendent.

Modern science has explained away some of the things that ancient people thought were miraculous, like thunder and lightning for example, but science has not explained away any of the miracles in the New Testament and it never will.  Science has not made the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, or the feeding of the five thousand one bit less miraculous.

The New Testament gives us an account of the many miracles performed by Jesus.  He instantaneously cures lepers, the blind, the mute, and the deaf.  He also cures paralytics and raises the dead to life.  He even cures those with a hardness of heart.  The miracles worked by Jesus invited those around him to a belief in Him and all that He taught.

The miracle we heard about today, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, foretells of the unique bread of the Eucharist.  As we heard Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and distributed the bread.  And they all ate and were satisfied.  Jesus fed that multitude with earthly bread.  Today, however, he feeds us with his body and blood hidden in the form of bread and wine.  The visible miracles of the New Testament were short lived and they all took place within a small area of the Middle East.  The invisible miracle of the Eucharist today, however, has been with us continually for two millennia and has taken place throughout the entire world and will endure until the end of time.

The Vatican has a traveling exhibit on Eucharistic Miracles.  I once viewed this exhibit and there are hundreds of miracles described.  There are miracles from every century of our Church’s history.  These miracles have helped to strengthen the faith of many throughout the centuries.  They reinforce what was taught to us by Jesus.  During his preaching Jesus pre-announced the Eucharist (as in today’s Gospel) and later, he gave it to us when celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles.  Our faith in the Eucharist is based on what Jesus taught and the Eucharistic miracles strengthen this faith.

One of the miracles in that display involves a man by the name of Andre Frossard.  He was a Frenchman who died in 1995.  He was born and raised in an atheistic household.  Issues of faith and religion never crossed his mind.  He once said, “Religion isn’t even a subject worthy of human thought.”  It was that unimportant to him.  By the age of twenty Andre was a content and happy man who greatly enjoyed his free-love lifestyle.

The incident of his conversion begins with him in a car going on an errand with a friend.  On the way to their destination the friend needed to stop at a church to see someone.  Andre waited in the car.  He soon got bored, however, and decides to enter the church to see what had happened to his friend.  At this point in his life Andre has no interest in faith. And isn’t even seeking God.  He’s only in the church to find his friend.  Within five minutes, however, his whole life is changed.  Standing in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, of which he is totally unaware, in his own words he says, “An indescribable force shatters in an instant the absurd being that I was, and brought to birth the amazed child that I had never been.”  He left the church a converted man and was quickly received into the Catholic Church.  Andre Frossard went on to become a famous newspaper columnist and bestselling author.  He even wrote two books about St. John Paul II who had become one of his closest friends.  Through this miraculous and instantaneous conversion who knows how many souls were positively influenced by the Catholic witness of Andre Frossard.  God used Andre to reach many people.

On this day when we hear about the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes, a foreshadowing of the Eucharist I want to end with a quote from Frossard writing about his own miraculous conversion:

“…I have had the good fortune to be a forgiven child who wakes up to discover that everything is a gift…God existed and was present…one thing only surprised me:  The Eucharist – not that it seemed incredible, but it amazed me that Divine Charity would have come upon this silent way to communicate Himself, and above all that He would choose to become bread, which is the staple of the poor, and the food preferred by children…O Divine Love, eternity will be too short to speak of You.” 

Pax et Bonum,

Fr. Christopher J. Ankley