This month we are talking about what it means to live the life of a saint by looking at the process of canonization in the Catholic Church. In each of the four steps to becoming an official saint we learn a little bit about how we can live more faithful lives that reflect the life of Jesus. The first step to living the life of a saint is to be a servant of God and the second step is to be heroic which we defined as someone who serves promptly, joyfully, frequently and sacrificially. Today we shift our focus a little because the last two steps for official sainthood both center on performing miracles.
A miracle is required for a person to become a saint so once a miracle has been identified, investigated and declared as being brought about by the touch or the prayers of the candidate, they are then declared blessed by the church and worthy of becoming a saint. So if we want to live the life of a saint we need to live a blessed life and be a blessing to others – so does that mean we need to perform miracles? At first I was going to say no because I really don’t think that following Jesus faithfully means walking on water or calming the wind and waves, but then I remembered what Jesus said. Look at John 14:12 - the one who believes in me will do the works that I do and in fact will do greater works than these.
Jesus said that we will do greater works than he did and Jesus performed lots of miracles so maybe we need to take seriously what it means to be miracle workers in the world today. Maybe we do need to think about doing miracles – but what exactly is a miracle? The dictionary defines a miracle as an unusual and welcome event that is not explained by natural law so is considered to be the work of the divine (or God). So at its very core, a miracle is just a change in a situation – a change for the better, so let’s look at three examples of miracles performed by Jesus and how things changed.
The first miracle we are going to look at comes from Matthew 8:1-3. Jesus chose to change this man’s situation by reaching out to heal his skin disease. With the touch of his hand Jesus healed this man and radically changed his life. Just moments before this man’s body was wasting away but now it was healthy and becoming strong. Before Jesus he would have been considered unclean and forced to live in isolation from his family and friends but after Jesus’ miracle he could now return home and actually eat with and live among his family and friends. In the touch of Jesus, this man’s life was changed for the better. It was a miracle.
The second miracle comes from Matthew 9:2-8. This man’s life was also changed but it wasn’t primarily a physical change that we see here but a spiritual change. When this man got up and started to walk what people focused on wasn’t the physical ability of Jesus to heal but the power he showed to forgive. The reason the religious leaders got so angry was because they believed that a person could not forgive sin. We aren’t talking about forgiving someone who has sinned against us, we all can and need to do that, we are talking about pronouncing someone’s sins forgiven.
This kind of forgiveness was seen as only God’s job and yet Jesus did it and the reason we know he did was because the man got up and walked. The physical healing here was a sign of a deeper spiritual healing and the miracle of forgiveness. What Jesus did here is change the man’s heart. Jesus set him free from the guilt and burden and the consequence of sin. He forgave him and that was a miracle.
The third miracle of we are going to look at is found in Matthew 14:13-21. When Jesus fed thousands of people when there seemed to be no food around, it was clearly an unusual and welcome event that could not be explained in any human terms which meant that it was a miracle, but it was a miracle that changed a person physically or spiritually, it changed a community. With this miracle we see that people were cared for. Where there once was hunger there was now food to eat and even leftovers. The situation had changed. It was a miracle.
In each of the situations something changed. There was a changed body or a changed heart or a changed community which means at its core a miracle is just a changed situation and that is what saints are to do. Saints live blessed lives that bring about unusual and welcome change and as we read the book of Acts we see that this what the first saints did.
The first saints were the early followers of Jesus and as we read about them we see that miracles were a regular part of their lives. They changed situations. They changed people physically and spiritually, outside and inside, and they changed their community and in time the world. We see the outside and physical miracle of healing in Acts 5:12-16. Many people were healed by the touch of the disciples and even by the touch of their shadow. Physical change was taking place in people’s lives because of these first saints. They were blessed and their miracles were a blessing to others.
But like the miracles of Jesus, it wasn’t just the outside body that was changed, people’s hearts were changed as well. In Acts 2, Peter tells the people that they were all sinners who had turned away from God and it was time for them to turn back. And then we hear this in Acts 2:37-41. 3,000 people had their hearts and lives changed because of the message of Peter. Clearly this was an unusual and welcome experience that could not be explained in any way other than the power of God. Peter had never preached before and to have his first sermon change the hearts and lives of so many people was a miracle and to have so many people accept God’s grace and experience forgiveness was a miracle. 3,000 people had their lives changed from the inside out. It was a miracle and o the disciples were clearly living blessed lives.
The disciples also performed miracles that changed their community; let’s keep reading in Acts 2:42-47. So the change the disciples brought about was not just a spiritual change of heart or the physical healing of the body, it was also a radical change of their community. No longer did people live isolated and alone and only take care of themselves – they came together to share and support one another so that there was no one in need among them. That is a radical change. Small groups formed so that people could worship and pray and learn more about Jesus and these small groups, or churches changed the community in which they lived and these churches have been changing the world ever since. That this all took place in a dangerous and hostile environment was a miracle.
So Jesus lived a blessed life that was filled with miracles. Jesus worked to change people inside and outside and he worked to change the community and world in which he lived. When the first saints worked to change people inside and outside and when they worked to change their community they were also performing miracles and living blessed lives. You can see where I’m going with this right? If we want to live blessed lives then we need to perform miracles and we do that every time we work to change people inside and outside and we perform miracles when we work to change our community and world and these are the kind of miracles that our world needs. Our world doesn’t need us to walk on water or turn water into wine – but it does need the miracle of change. Our community and world needs us to our work in ways that will change people inside and outside and our world needs us to work in ways that will change our community so let’s talk about performing these kind of miracles.
While we cannot forgive people the way Jesus did, we can share with people that there is true and lasting forgiveness IN Jesus. We have a message of love and grace from God which really can free people from the guilt and shame and burden of sin and every time we share that message and someone experiences God’s grace and freedom it is a miracle. Is there someone you know who needs to hear this message? Is there someone you know that is struggle with the pain of their past faults and failures? If there is then maybe you can be the miracle worker who can set them free. Every time we tell someone about the love of Jesus that was poured out on the cross and every time someone accepts this sacrifice for themselves and finds forgiveness and salvation – it is a miracle. Will we be miracle workers and share this message of God’s grace and love?
There are internal miracles of healing and hope and there are external miracles as well. We often become uncomfortable talking about miracles of healing because we think they need to look like what we read in the Bible where the blind could suddenly see again and those who suffered from leprosy saw their skin literally grow healthy in front of their eyes. While this certainly did happen and were miracles of healing and while this kind of power is still at work in the world today, this is not the only kind of miraculous healing we need to think about. Unexpected and welcome physical change can come in many different ways. Simply holding babies can help them grow stronger and studies have shown that infants and children who are held tend to heal faster. There is power in our touch to bring healing to others which means that we can help perform miracles by just being willing to help children in need.
At the other end of life, the power of touch has also been shown to be powerful and healing. Holding hands with those who are dying can bring comfort and peace as they let go in this world which means that we perform miracles every time we are willing to simply reach out to those who are dying. And our prayers can help bring about physical healing. I don’t know why we don’t see it this way, but when we pray for people and they get better and experience healing, we often don’t see that as a miracle – but it is. And so is taking meals into a person or family in need. The gift of that food brings healing and hope and when people get better – it is a changed situation. There are so many ways we can offer people physical healing and every time we do we are miracle workers changing people’s lives.
And then we need to perform miracles that will change our community and world and the possibilities here are endless. Like the disciples, when we help feed those who are hungry it is a miracle. When we reach out to welcome and love those who are feeling depressed, lonely and isolated we are performing miracles. When we share what we have with those in need around us – it is a miracle because it helps change someone else’s life.
If miracles are just situations that change for the better – then we need to start doing miracles and work for positive faithful change and we need to do it all with the understanding that what brings about the real change isn’t us, but God working through us. Let me be clear that we can only do miracles when we are trusting in the power of God because it is God who brings lasting and effective change. It is God who ultimately changes someone’s heart and sets the free. God may need us to share the message of forgiveness and grace so we are part of the miracle, but clearly we need God’s hand to make it all possible.
God may use our fingers and hands and words to physically heal people and made whole – but it is God who restores the body to health – not us. And when the hungry are fed and feel satisfied and cared for – it is because God has used our hands to provide what is needed. A truly blessed life that is filled with miracles only happens because we are willing to once again draw upon the power of God. Being a hero requires us to ask God for his spirit and power and so does being a miracle worker. We can’t do this on our own – we need the power of God. So once again, let’s ask for that power and then lets use that power to change people’s hearts and lives and the life of our community and world. Let’s perform some miracles. Let’s live the blessed life of a saint.
Living the Life of a Saint ~ Blessed
A blessed life is a life filled with miracles.
Miracles are simply situations that are changed for the better by the power of God.
1. What miracles have you experienced?
• What miracles of healing have you experience?
• What miracles of hope and forgiveness have you experienced?
• Who did God use in these situations to bless you?
• What miracles have you seen or heard about in others?
2. Where do you see miracles needed today? Specifically:
• Who needs to experience God’s forgiveness?
• Who needs physical healing and strength?
• In what ways does our community need to change in order to look more like God’s kingdom?
3. What can you do in each of the situations listed above to bring about an unexpected and welcome change?
What miracle is God calling you to perform?
4. Ask God for His divine power so you can live a blessed life and be a blessing to others. Remind yourself daily that we can do even greater things than Jesus.