Friday, June 1, 2012


Do miracles happen in your life? God's grace making you holy is a miracle. I know we think of that in a different category. Why do we do that? Partly we want some credit. We don't want to think of ourselves as serious sinners that were only saved by a major outpouring of God's grace. That is what our faith says we are but we don't really buy it. I know I tend to use very ordinary language when talking about the changes God has made in my life. Not the language or miracles but the language of continuous improvement. It is a bit of a pride thing. It is hard to talk about how hopeless I was and how amazed I was at God's salvation of my soul. But it is important not to forget. It is important not just so we know God exists. It also gives us the assurance that we are saved. The old song says, "You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart." But the evidence it is really Him and not your imagination is that Jesus makes real changes to your life that you could not do on your own. At a very personal level your thoughts and feelings are more virtuous. We like to think we are just wonderful people. We don't like to think of ourselves as miracles of God.

In some ways we are materialists even at that level. We think that we just matured and learned. There is nothing remarkable happening. God's word contains much wisdom. The church community has provided love and support. The gospel is great for self esteem. But has God's grace made a difference beyond that? We flatter ourselves. We acknowledge the visible help but outside of that we think it is pretty much us.

This is where you run into the false choice of being saved by grace or saved by works. At some level we really don't buy that it is all God's grace. We think our works are ours. So saying they are salvific is to say we are saving ourselves. Protestants try and solve this by saying works play no part in salvation. But that is not the solution. The truth is to say they really aren't our works. They are ours in the sense that grace is personal and grace requires our cooperation. God does not save by a divine decree but by working lovingly in the depths of each saved soul. But it is His work. He is preparing you to enter heaven by making you holy. That is the essence of salvation.

If we see our lives as a story of supernatural intervention then we are less likely to have trouble with stories of miracles. Why wouldn't there be miraculous physical healings when my own life transformation is miraculous? Why wouldn't people see visions and dream dreams? You think about the quote from Rahner, "I don't believe in miracles. I rely on them." Many saints seemed to be like that. But there is something about that we don't like. Often when people share stories of supernatural events that happened to them they will almost apologize for it. They know people react by mentally writing them off. They know it because they have done it with others. Why do we do that? Even when we confess that God is real we have trouble accepting these stories. Do we believe a form of deism? That God created the world and gives us salvation but there are some things he won't do.

In becoming Catholic I had some of those barriers. There were some things God would not do. Like transforming bread and wine into His body and blood. Like protecting the pope from error. I do feel my exposure to the charismatic movement made it easier for me to accept those ideas. I learned that just because in my experience God has not been known to do something that does not means He doesn't.It does not even mean it is not for me. Learning that has opened the door to so much grace.

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