My friends, Christ did it all wrong, according to the standards of the world. Just look who He chose to spread His Kingdom. Not the best and the brightest, but poor ignorant fishermen and a public sinner. None of them were on the ‘A’ list.
He gave them extraordinary power. The power to raise the dead, heal the leper, expel demons and work miracles. Many of us at some time in life pray for a miracle. A loved one is dying and has a serious illness. We pray and pray, and nothing happens.
Our faith is tested, and we wonder why God is not answering our prayers.
Many years ago, a priest friend of mine experienced a crisis of faith. In the space of one year, he had lost three members of his family. He had prayed and prayed; said Mass after Mass; spent hours on his hands and knees and still nothing happened. In despair, His faith grew weak and he began to doubt.
But he went on with his duties – teaching, preaching and saying Mass. One of his duties was to say Mass at a small mission church in the middle of a forest, in Canada. Then, one dark winter day while driving home along a deserted road, he came across a terrible accident. A man lay dying, trapped in an overturned car.
My friend was able to force open the crumpled car door, and take out the badly injured man. As he did so, he saw a rosary hanging on the rearview mirror. He laid the elderly man on the ground, and ran to his car to get the holy oils. And he anointed the dying man.
He held the dying man in his arms and absolved him from his sins. But nothing happened. There was no shift in the world; no change in the dire situation. No word from Heaven. Not even any human rescuers came. Only the silent, cold world.
Through the dying man’s harsh, choked breathing, again the priest felt let down by God. But, he started to pray. He recited prayers about Mary, prayers about the Father in Heaven. He felt foolish, but what else could he do or say? He wanted a miracle.
He was surprised at the fury in his voice as he said, “God, do something.” But again, there was nothing but silence from Heaven. What could he say to the crushed, dying man? But then the man suddenly turned. He looks up and sees he is being held by a priest. He says, “God sent me a priest. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Out here, He sent me a priest.”
It was at this point the priest forced to give up his immature idea of God, who comes with a miracle in hand when we whistle to make everything right. In favor of a God who summons the faithful to be present when a need arises.
The priest prayed for a miracle, and he realized he was the miracle. God was there and held that dying man through the arms of a priest.
In our Gospel, Jesus sent the most unlikely people out to do His work. To be other Christs. Maybe we will never be able to raise the dead; or heal the leper, or a person with cancer or AIDS. But we can be present.
The priest did not work a miracle. He was not able to bring the man back to life, or lift the car off him. His mere presence was a miracle.
St. Theresa of Avila once said, “Often we can work miracles by just being ourselves. Just by being concerned, loving and compassionate.”
My friends, understand that the word “Compassion” is just another word for “Christian.”