Homily for Monday of the 3rd Week of Lent
Theme: HOW TO IDENTIFY A MIRACLE
By: Fr. Chinedu Vincent Ezeanochie.
Homily for Monday March 21 2022
Belief in miracle is an essential feature of Christianity. But the question is, what do we mean when we say that a miracle has happened? In its most basic sense, a miracle is an extraordinary event that violates the law of nature due to divine interference. In other words, for you to call something a miracle it must fulfill a particular condition, that is, a violation of what normally happens in nature. We live in a world that operates in a regular way. For instance, when a person dies he or she remains dead. However, the omnipotent Creator can make deliberate intervention on the course of an event, thus, suspending temporarily the normal regularity of things. Examples of these phenomena abound in the sacred scriptures. For instance, the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44). In bringing Lazarus back to life, there was a violation of the law of biology. It is a law of biology that the body of anyone who dies remains dead, so bringing back Lazarus to life was a violation of this law of nature. Likewise, the same can be said of Mary’s virginal conception (Matthew 1:18-25).
It is, however, a different thing in the case of a person whose sight is restored through surgery. This is not a miracle, but, we thank God for the intelligence in understanding the established order of things, which upon the right application led to the restoration of the sight. In the same vein, a few months ago, a popular Nigerian pastor prayed (claiming he was imitating Jesus) that the account number of his church members would be miraculously credited with money. In the end, he claimed that the church members received “credit alerts”. I do not doubt whether they received “credit alerts”, but the question is, can it be called a miracle. Of course, if the money was transferred by persons, perhaps unknown to the beneficiaries, following the normal procedure of money transfer, it is still within the natural order of doing things in the affairs of life. What the beneficiaries need to do is simply to go to the bank and ask for the sender and other details concerning the money they received. Upon receiving this, it will be clear to them that the money was not transferred by the spirits.
Meanwhile, that a phenomenon is unexplainable is not sufficient to classify it as a miracle. It is not enough to say that our inability to explain an occurrence makes it miraculous. A miracle is different from an unexplained natural phenomenon, which because of our ignorance at a certain period may appear to us as a miracle. That something is unexplainable today does not mean that it will not be explainable tomorrow. Something may appear extraordinary because of our ignorance, but it is still within the natural order of things. With little scientific knowledge in 1947, it was quite natural for most people in Nigeria then to believe that the Dark Day event of May 20, 1947, which suddenly turned day to night, was a miracle. But it was a simple natural phenomenon of a solar eclipse. Not everything that seems extraordinary can be classified as a miracle. Something may appear as a miracle today because of our ignorance of the secondary causes underlying such a phenomenon, but with more understanding in the future, it will become explainable.
While miracles have a place in Christianity, it is important to bear in mind (particularly Nigerians) that the aim of miracles is not to permanently replace the natural order of things established by God. But, rather, miracles serve to complement the natural order of things. The violation of the law of nature is not to destroy or permanently replace the natural order but a contribution to it. For this reason, prayer centres (or healing centres) should not seek to replace the natural order of medical treatment provided in the hospitals. After all, both the established natural order and miracles have their origin in God. And again, miracles happen on rare occasions and can hardly, unlike the hospitals, take care of thousands of sick people in society. The same can be said of the problem of poverty and unemployment in Nigeria. It cannot be solved by merely substituting, even with good intentions, the natural order of wealth creation with miracle crusades.
To conclude, whenever someone claims to have performed or received a miracle, it is not enough to shout alleluia or praise the Lord, because of the human natural desire to be amazed. You should go further to ask if such a claim violates a law of nature. If it does, then, it is most likely to be a miracle. If, however, it is an unexplainable occurrence then do not be quick in calling it a miracle because when the veil of ignorance is removed you may discover that it was simply an ordinary event.