Fine, I’ll admit it. I have always been a skeptic of so-called "miracles." Marian apparitions: I’m skeptical. Unexplained recoveries from illnesses: I’m skeptical. Destiny/fate: I’m skeptical. Yeah, go ahead and say it, "You are a scrooge!"
The logic of my skepticism has always rested in a belief that our God does not need extravagant miracles. In other words, I have always been content in knowing that our God must remain somewhat invisible to us.
Why? The answer is rather simple. If the existence of God was made absolutely certain to us, then where would our freedom go? Where would our faith go? Would we not become slaves to God?
Now, despite the fact that I am such a doubter of miracles, the miracles embedded in today’s readings cannot help but stir my heart in an incredible way. I simply cannot brush them aside. Sure, many of us have read about Saul’s conversion hundreds of times, and sure, many of us have become quite familiar with the notion that Jesus’ flesh is "true food" and his blood "true drink." But have we really experienced the miracles present in each of these readings? Allow me to reflect a little bit.
In regards to Saul’s conversion, the miracle appears to be quite obvious
– there is a flash of light, someone being thrown to the ground, and a mysterious voice. Sounds like a rather extravagant miracle, does it not?
But was that really the miracle that led to Saul’s conversion? Is it not possible that the actual conversion took place deep inside Saul’s heart?
Is it not possible that the blinding light Saul experienced was the light of Jesus shining forth through another person – a person in love with Jesus? Is it not possible that Saul was thrown to the ground in awe when he witnessed an act of service done in the name of Jesus? And is it not possible that the voice Saul and the others heard was Jesus speaking through the loving words of someone else? After all, isn’t this how we are called to experience Jesus after his physical departure from this world? Why would it have been any different during Saul’s time?
In regards to the miracle present in today’s gospel, I am also very much in awe. Jesus, in his foreshadowing of the Eucharist, illustrates exactly how we can and always will be able to intimately unite with our
Creator- through real food and real drink. Indeed, the idea that we can consume our loving God through simple bread and wine is a miracle in itself. Is it an extravagant, attention-seeking miracle? Not at all. In fact, it is a miracle which demands our deepest reflection and contemplation. "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?" This is the question we must all ask when we process up the aisle at Mass to receive our Lord. The answer will knock you off your horse.
Tony Cortese is the Youth and Young Adult Minister for Newman Catholic Community at Sacramento State University, Sacramento, California.