One More Time
Immediately upon his public ministry, Jesus began to perform miracles. Luke gives these accounts in his gospel to show that Jesus is the anointed one of God, the Messiah. Because people had seen him casting out demons and healing people, more and more people gathered to hear him preach.
Jesus had already healed Simon's mother-in-law of a high fever, when he sits in Simon's boat to preach to the people on the shore. Following the message, he told Simon to go out into the deeper water to fish. It was not the right time of day to fish and Simon knew it. But he went out anyway because Jesus asked him. They caught so many fish that one boat couldn't handle them all. So James and John bring out their boat to help (Luke 5:1-11).
This miraculous catch of fish, mid-morning, convinced Simon(Peter), James and John that Jesus was someone worth listening to. They hadn't asked Jesus to help them with fishing. Although they hadn't caught anything that early morning, and had no doubt missed out on a day's wages, they didn't complain. It seems Jesus arranged that miracle just to impress them. It worked. They began to follow Jesus.
For Reflection: Jesus may move in unexpected ways. After all, what does a carpenter know about fishing? Where will I see Jesus working today? If He calls me to do something I've already tried and failed at, will I try one more time?
Let us pray. Jesus, you are the master of everything above the earth, on the earth and under the earth. All creation owes its existence to you.
It's showdown time at Mount Carmel. Ahab and Elijah meet and Elijah throws down a challenge. King Ahab is to gather the 450 prophets of Baal that he has been taking care of and Jezebel is to present her 400 prophets of Asherah (nature and fertility gods) to stand in a test against Elijah, prophet of the Lord.
Elijah tries to whip up enthusiasm and faith among the people of Israel, but not even he can succeed at that. They want to wait and see who wins the challenge.
The challenge (as issued by Elijah): "Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire - he is God" (1 Kings 18:23-24).
The outcome: The false prophets prayed from morning until noon. Nothing. They prayed from noon until evening. Nothing.
Elijah prepared the altar of the Lord. He had the wood soaked in water until a trench around the altar was also full of water. Elijah prayed once. "Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones of the altar and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench" (1 Kings 18:38).
For reflection: Elijah let the other prophets have first choice of the bulls to be offered. The bull was one of the symbols of Baal representing lust for power and sexual pleasure. Those are still powerful gods today. Am I dedicated only to the one true God or are there others in my life?
Let us pray. You alone are holy. You alone are the Lord. You alone, Jesus Christ, are the most high.
God has now worked two miracles regarding food for Elijah. First, he fed him through ravens in the wilderness. Second, he fed him through the widow of Zarephath. The third miracle related to Elijah, so far, is that God has withheld rain from Israel in order to prove to King Ahab that he is the one, true God.
Elijah is biding his time, waiting for the next call from God, when the son of the widow becomes ill and stops breathing. The woman immediately blames this on Elijah. Why not? By now she knows that not only is he a foreigner but also an enemy of the King of Israel. Surely her housing of this man has brought this evil upon her (1 Kings 17:17-18).
Elijah ignores the accusation and God uses Elijah to raise the boy back to life. This saving act, more than anything else, convinces the woman that Elijah's God is the true God and she has done the right thing by taking him in. "Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth" (1 Kings 17:24), is her confession of faith. The multiplication of food had not convinced her, but bringing her son back to life has.
For Reflection: How many miracles does it take to convince me that God is at work?
Let us pray. Lord, I can be so hard-headed and disbelieving sometimes. Help me to recognize you in my life every day.
When the brook dried up from which Elijah had been drinking (because of the drought which Elijah had predicted), God led him to a widow in a town on the coast (1 Kings 17:7-16). The widow and her son were also suffering from the drought. When Elijah asked her for food, she told him of her dire circumstances - she was preparing her last meal. Elijah asks her for bread anyway. Then he makes her a promise from God: "The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land."
And so it was. Elijah lived with the woman and her family while God kept his promise. The widow was not an Israelite, but a woman from the area where Jezebel was from. God had sent Elijah to a foreigner, you might say into the enemy's camp, someone who owed an Israeli prophet nothing.
For Reflection: God blessed this woman and her family for sharing their last meal with a visitor, a foreigner. Elijah had traveled a long way and was no doubt dusty and dirty. He'd been living outdoors for a long time without human companionship. A widow, who should have been afraid of him, takes him in. It is surely God at work to lead Elijah to such a woman and for that woman to open her home and hearth to Elijah.
Let us pray. Jesus, if you led someone to my door I hope I would be as welcoming. There may not be anyone knocking on my door, but there are many refugees in the world today. How should I respond? What is my responsibility?
More Reasons for Healing
The disciples continued to heal people as they preached the Gospel after Jesus ascended into heaven. Healing and working miracles were quite common and are well documented in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts 3 Peter and John healed a man who had been lame all of his life. The man was not asking for healing, he was begging for food or money. So there doesn't seem to be any faith present on his part. Yet Peter and John healed him anyway. This was a very public miracle because the man begged every day at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.
Acts 5 is even more dramatic. Beginning with verse 14 we read, "More and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed."
As with Jesus, all of them were healed. None were turned away. We could continue to heap up citations from Acts as from the Gospels. The clear fact is that the disciples continued to heal and work miracles in support of preaching the Gospel. They didn't heal people just for the sake of healing people; they healed people to show the truth of the Gospel message. And the basic Gospel message is this: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God who became a human being, who suffered, died and rose from the dead for the forgiveness of our sins. Repent of your sins and believe this good news. Be baptized and spread the kingdom of God further.
Let us pray and meditate today on Peter's words to the High Priest and the Jewish Council: "We must obey God, not men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from death, after you had killed him by nailing him to a cross. God raised him to his side as Leader and Savior, to give the people of Israel the opportunity to repent and have their sins forgiven. We are witnesses to these things - we and the Holy Spirit, who is God's gift to those who obey him." (Acts 5:29-32)
Another day, another miracle. If we've been Christian a long time, and read the Scriptures for many years we can become ho-hum about all the miracles Jesus performed and how much he suffered on our behalf. The challenge can be to read them with new eyes and hear them with new ears. Before we read Scripture, we should ask the Holy Spirit to be with us and help us to hear what God is saying to us today through that particular passage.
Today let's read Luke 6:6-11 (The same story is also told in Matthew 12:9-14 and Mark 3:1-6.) Jesus heals a man with a useless right hand. Perhaps the hand had been crushed in an accident or maybe the man had a stroke and no longer had the use of that hand. We have the description of the hand being shriveled, but we don't know why.
The healing is intertwined with the Jewish leaders' criticism of Jesus for curing people on the Sabbath - which they considered to be work. Of course, none of them had ever restored someone's hand. So perhaps the real reason they were mad was that Jesus made them look bad. He could cure people and they, the educated and most faithful, couldn't.
In Luke's version the healing of the hand is almost incidental to the story. But it was not incidental to the man. No doubt his life was changed by having his right hand back.
For reflection: One method of getting something new from a Scriptural passage we've read many times is to place ourselves in the story. There are many options for who we might be in this story: the person with the shriveled hand, a Pharisee or teacher of the law, Jesus, a family member of the man being healed, one of the bystanders. Where am I in the story? What do I see and hear now?
Let us pray. Holy Spirit, I don't want to become immune to the message. Help me to see what you want me to see, and hear what you want me to hear, and do what you want me to do today.
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A Little Help from My Friends
As I looked around the church on Sunday, I noticed how many people in the congregation were using canes, walkers and crutches. Those are great testimonies to the treatments of modern medicine, but not such great testimonies to the healing power of Jesus.
When Jesus saw the faith of the man's friends, he healed the paralytic. We looked at this story of healing on Monday (Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26). We don't know if the paralyzed man had faith. Maybe he did; maybe he didn't. But we know that his friends did. They carried him to Jesus, tore a hole in the roof, and, using ropes, lowered him in front of Jesus. That took planning, preparation and persistence.
This may be the case when we pray with someone. They may not have much faith, but their friend does or we do. The person in need of prayer may be hope-filled but not faith-filled. They may be doubtful or skeptical. They may be incapable of getting to Jesus on their own. We may be the only one praying who has faith. We may need to plan, prepare and persist so that the experience of healing can bring them to faith.
What would have happened to the man who was paralyzed if he hadn't gotten a little help from his friends? He could not have gotten to Jesus on his own. His friends helped him get his life back.
For reflection: Is there anyone among my friends with a knee, hip or ankle injury? Anyone facing joint surgery with weeks of rehabilitation afterward? Am I the friend who will take them to Jesus? Can I help them get their life back?
Let us pray. Jesus, you instantly healed the man who was paralyzed because his friends brought him to you. I bring to you today _____. I don't want him/her to suffer any longer. I don't care what the doctors say about the length of their recovery. I care about their health and their relationship to you.
St. Patrick had a reputation for raising people from the dead. (This being St. Patrick's Day let's add him to the mix of our reflections on Matthew 5:14-16). He was known for his miracles. One of these was raising to life two children of the King of Dublin. The King and his subjects consequently became Christians.
Patrick did not hide his light. No, he let his light shine for all to see and he wasn't afraid to step up and put God to the test about raising people from the dead. He was an ordinary person who ended up doing great things for God.
For Reflection: Personally I don't know any Christians who have a reputation for raising people from the dead. Why not? Are people not still dying? Who are the people called to raise the dead? Where are they?
Let us pray. Father, help us to let the light you have given us shine before all people that they may see the good deeds you enable us to do. Let us hold up our light, the light of Christ, like a beacon. Let us be the lighthouse. May we be the ones to raise the dead, heal the sick and bring many more people to know and love you. Give us some of the courage, faith and tenacity that Patrick had.
Getting Big Air
Snowboarding, free skiing and other events have been added to the Olympic games in recent years. These are sports that only developed recently. People invented these sports. They invented the equipment; they invented the moves. Someone did it first and then spread the word.
Usually these innovators are young people who are willing to try anything. They don't have a fear of failure (or many times a fear of death). When they get to a certain age, they retire from the sport to get married, raise families and pursue other dreams. They settle down; live normal lives.
I'm not sure as Christians that we should settle down and live normal lives. We should be the ones trying new things in the Spirit, finding new ways to achieve healing, working miracles to feed the hungry and house the homeless, even raising the dead. We should be the ones soaring above the earth in the Spirit, being transported supernaturally to other places, getting "big air". These are radical things in the Spirit today which for Christians should be the new normal.
For reflection: What is the new normal to which God is calling me? Where have I settled for less than God wants? What new moves does God want me to develop?
Let us pray. Jesus, in you all things are possible. I want to know you and the power of your resurrection. I don't want to settle for less than you have planned for me and will enable me to do. I want to keep pressing on toward that to which you have called me. With you I have no fear.(based on Matthew 19:26, Ephesians 3:10, 13-14 and 1 John 4:18).
How hard was it for Joseph to believe the angel who told him Mary was innocent? It is an incredible thing to believe - that Mary is having a child by the Holy Spirit. Even today it is one of the hardest things to credit that God became man through a woman. And yet it is a founding pillar of Christianity.
It helps that it had been foretold that God would send a Messiah, a Savior. More specifically, Isaiah prophesied that "The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). Did Joseph remember that prophecy? Did he ever doubt?
For reflection: When I have doubts, do I turn to God for answers and reassurance?
Let us pray. "To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. . . . Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior" (Psalm 25:1-2, 4-5).
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.