I don’t write about miracles that often. I suppose that is because finding words to describe the depth of transcendence involved in a miracle is a strain, even for me.
I have defined a miracle though: a stepping out of time to ensure the outcome.
What this is is a comparison with ordinary prayers. And I’m realizing that I can write about miracles a bit by comparing them to ordinary prayers.
An ordinary prayer, a petition of some kind to God, involves three elements: God, the pray-er, and time.
All three of these elements must align in order for a prayer to be answered. The person making the petition must be aligned within himself (that is, his thoughts, feelings, and actions must all agree with the petition). God, of course, must receive the prayer and release a response, which, of course, may not be what the pray-er had in mind. (But that is not the focus here.) And then the time it takes for the answer to be created must be considered.
I once read of a woman who prayed all her life for an apple orchard. And as she prayed and prayed, the land for the orchard and the money for the stock came into being. But it took time for the trees to grow and become an orchard.
I realize this is a somewhat awkward way of describing the relationship between the three elements, but it’s the best way I can find at the moment to say that even when God and Man are aligned in a prayer, it will take the time time takes to bring the response into existence.
With a miracle, there is no time element involved. It’s just between you and God. Which, although it may seem otherwise, makes the prayer that much more complicated. And much more painful to bring about.
With an ordinary prayer, what the petitioner must do is both receive and fulfill The Bill. That task God assigns you that can best be described as the last thing on Earth you want to do. It will be an act as close to the Earth as you can get: always will it involve serving a Least-of-These. It is in paying these bills that a person can best get to know the true nature of God. It teaches us to put compassion for others, no matter who they are and in what state they are, before our own sense of personal comfort. We become for that time one of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.
In a miracle the opposite is expected. We have to gather up all the courage we can and petition God directly. We knock on his door.
Like the bill of an ordinary prayer is assigned us by God, so too is the means to petition God directly given to us by God.
I call this part of a miracle, The Stretch. The extending beyond our normal reach. Going beyond our own imagination, even.
Something I love about the Bible is how it teaches us some of the normally hidden mysteries of God in such a quiet way.
For instance, Abraham having to drag his son up a mountain in order to slay him shows us the reality of the concept of obedience to God: it’s not in the fulfilling of the assignment that is crucial, just the willingness.
Job delineates what faith is: hanging on to our belief in God no matter what happens to us. And faith is the key to surviving the ordeals that come to us in our lives.
But where do we find the way of miracles? In Genesis Joseph.
Favored from his birth both by his father and by the gifts that God has given him, Joseph enkindles raging envy in his brothers. They, in turn, decide to kill him. Reprieved at the last moment, Joseph is instead sold into slavery.
Where he flourishes. But when he turns down the sexual advances of the farm owner’s wife, he is sent to prison on a false pretext.
Where he flourishes. Which should give us an idea of what is to come.
But what comes?
A summons from the Pharaoh. To solve his problem.
It is Joseph’s stretch. He has to go outside his normal realm, into the highest chamber in the land, and serve someone to whom he owes no affiliation.
Doing this, he knock’s on Heaven’s door.
And because he did this, he goes on to save not only the land in which he lives, but the land of his father.
I have read and listened to many criticisms of Genesis Joseph. It’s funny how the same people who claim belief in the virginal conception and the resurrection of our Lord, think nothing of ripping apart this not very simple story.
Joseph’s father was wrong to favor him. Give him that coat.
He was favored by his father, which begins to teach us about Jesus and how his being favored will fare.
Joseph is wrong to serve a kingdom outside of his own.
Which, again, foreshadows Jesus active expansion of God’s love to everyone on Earth.
But what appears to be overlooked or run over by preachers is how Joseph had to reach up from the depths of a prison to the palace. He had to gird his loins, stand up, and walk out of that prison into the fresh air and back into freedom. By serving a foreign ruler on Earth.
All those years of Joseph’s suffering were just a means of putting him in place to become a savior.
Yet another prefiguring of Jesus. Who now absolutely embodies the link between suffering and salvation.
It is something to consider: that should you find yourself caught up with visions of a miracle in your life, there will come to you an occasion to stretch your arm all the way to God’s door where you will be given the opportunity to knock.
Remember that all of this will be very hard on your body. And that the wonder of it all may be overwhelming and very, very humbling.