Ephesians 1:6

Brothers and Sisters,

I was impressed this past weekend with many people asking about a cryptic line from last weekend’s Gospel that seemed confusing.  Last week I preached based on the second reading and not on the Gospel, so I didn’t offer any clarification on this line during the homily.

Here’s the line that was confusing for many people:

“[Jesus] was not able to perform any mighty deeds there [. . .] He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Matthew 6:5-6).

At first glance, it looks like Christ is being restricted or restrained from doing His Will.  If Christ was “not able” to do something, then we might wonder who was stopping Him from doing so.  But that does not seem to make sense, because no human or group of humans is stronger that Christ.

So, if not humans preventing Christ, then maybe it is God the Father stopping Him.  However, this doesn’t make sense either because the Father and the Son are both God, and the Trinity does not have internal conflict between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Could it be the devil?  Again, that would not make sense, because Lucifer is not more powerful than God.

So, now what?  The confusion (for most people) is caused by a mistake in the makeup of miracles.  Christ does not confect miracles to demonstrate His godliness; divinity is not about supernatural power dominating human reason and abilities.  To quote Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI:

Christ’s miracles are not a display of power but signs of the love of God which becomes manifest whenever it meets reciprocated human faith.

The then-Cardinal Ratzinger rightly says that our faith is an essential element.  This is the fundamental flaw when people demand God show them a miracle before they will believe or when people only pray for a miracle rather than praying often in thanksgiving or praise.  If we don’t really believe – or if God is only a lottery ticket for us – then we cannot expect a miracle.  If we amaze Christ by our lack of faith, then we cannot expect a miracle to increase our faith.

Say with the man in the crowd:  Lord, I do believe, help my unbelief (Mark 9:23); or Saint Anselm:  credo ut intelligam (believe, then you may come to understand).  A stained glass window looks dark and creepy from the outside; it is inside the Church that is beautiful.

God be near,

Father Jeremy