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Thursday, June 03, 2010

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott


The readings for Sunday, June 6, 2010:

First Reading: 1 Kings 17:17-24

First Reading (Semi-cont.): 1 Kings 17:8-16 [17-24]

Psalm: Psalm 30

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 146

Second Reading: Galatians 1:11-24

Gospel: Luke 7:11-17

Today's Gospel gives us the kind of miracle that's hardest to explain away (if we're in the mood to explain away). Other miracles, like the one of multiplying loaves and fishes, we understand: maybe one act of generosity inspired other people to share their food; maybe the disciples miscounted the loaves. After all, we see this kind of miracle all the time: one person is assigned to bring the main dish for potluck, and other people decide they'll bring a main dish too, and pretty soon, we've got enough food to feed all the hungry people on the block.

But bringing a man back from the dead, now that's a miracle. Even in our modern time of all sorts of medical possibility, we're still amazed when people beat their cancer, when people who were dead for several minutes are saved, when the body rallies and defeats death. We know it's just temporary. We're all headed towards the grave, and medical intervention can only hold that off for so long.

Why is it so hard for us to accept the miraculous? We are part of a religious tradition that tells stories of the miraculous week after week. We worship a God who rescues humanity again and again: from the degradation of slavery, from the oppression of societal structures, from the very grave itself.

We often forget how very often we see miracles on a daily basis. Even the non-religious have been known to comment on the miraculous nature of hurricane ravaged foliage that regenerates, of cancerous cells that shrink or vanish, of the wayward child who returns to sensible behavior, of the relationships that regenerate into a deeper love. And if we think about the even larger picture, if we consider how unlikely it is throughout the universe that carbon combines with other elements to create life forms, it becomes harder to think that miracles don't exist on our own planet. Think about our own planet, and how life manages to adapt and thrive under the most adverse conditions (like in volcanic vents under the ocean).

Wendell Barry said it best: "Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine--which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes" ("Christianity and the Survival of Creation" in Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community, page 103).

Most of us have probably already abandoned our New Year's resolutions, so perhaps it's time to make a mid-year resolution. Let this be the summer that we take note of the miraculous on a daily basis. We live in a world that delights in delivering bad news; let this be the season that we train ourselves to recognize all the good news that God sends us each and every day.

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