I received an e-mail recently, with this subject: "Tell me how he did it, and I’ll give you a thanksgiving turkey." The "it" was a video of a card trick that was truly amazing; it seemed to nullify any effect of shuffling the cards, which were dealt out in an obviously pre-arranged order. But, like any card trick, there was a skillful manipulation of cards and audience in order to make something appear to be what it was not. The e-mail made me consider how easily we pass from "wonder" at our observations, to the skeptical, "tell me how he did it".
Today’s readings (Isaiah 25:6-10a and Matthew 15:29-37) are like that. We read in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus cured persons who could barely walk, whose eyes did not work, whose joints were misshapen, and whose speech was held back. "They placed them at his feet, and he cured them." In Isaiah’s passage, the mortality of the people, the sentence of death under which we all live, is cancelled; "the web that is woven over all nations" and the "reproach of his people" will be removed.
Our human curiosity and desire to know drive us to ask "how did Jesus do that?" How does Jesus bring healing into our lives? How did Jesus satisfy the hunger of thousands on the Galilean mountainside overlooking the Sea of Galilee? Surreptitiously, we pass into the skepticism that makes us want to know "how". Perhaps if we only knew how Jesus performed his saving miracles, then we might be better positioned to share in his healing, in his satisfying of our hungers, in his gift of everlasting life. Perhaps if we knew "how" Jesus performed these wonders, then we might better believe that he is truly "the Son of God."
The truth of the life-giving work of Jesus is not found in the knowledge of "HOW he did these wonders". It is in our faith’s insight into the fact "THAT he did these wonders". The "how" may tantalize us, but the "that" of Jesus as our Savior has saved us. Let us remember the conversation of the women on their way to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, "Who will roll the stone away?", of Mary at the sight of the one she believed to be the gardener, "If you took him away, tell me where you laid him." These questions and doubts are erased by the conviction THAT Jesus is raised, he goes before them. May we find in today’s Scripture, the encouragement to place our faith in what God, through Jesus, does for us daily; and in the conviction that God will continue to heal, comfort and nourish us forever.
Fr. Arthur Carrillo is the local leader of the Passionist Community in Houston, Texas.