Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, 1943.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
"This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed in Him."
The Gospel for today narrates the circumstances of the miracle. The point I would comment upon is the word miracle. There are three words for miracle in the New Testament—signs, wonders and powers. The word used in the Gospel today is signs.
The changing of the water into wine was a sign which "manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him." The miracle was a clearly interpreted sign for His disciples because they believed on Him. For unbelievers the sign meant almost nothing. In the end the Resurrection did not convince them because of their unbelief.
Personal faith is the secret of personal perception. The Christian begins with the Incarnation. Bethlehem is the starting point. From Bethlehem on there are miracles all the way. For the Christian the miracles are all signs. They all manifest Our Lord's glory.
Christians expect miracles because they believe in Our Lord. They know that He is "the only-begotten Son of God: Begotten of His Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light; Very God of very God; Begotten, not made: Being of one substance with the Father; By Whom all things were made" Christians know that all power in heaven and earth is given to Him. Christians know that all things are possible with Him. Therefore they refer to Him the things that are humanly impossible with serene confidence in His power to do what He will with His own.
The miracles of Our Lord were not only signs of His power. They were signs of His love for man and of His sympathy in human joys and sorrows. Read the records in the Gospels and you will be impressed with the wideness of the love of Our Lord for all sorts and conditions of men.
The first miracle took place at a wedding. The second was for the healing of a nobleman's son.
There were signs in the sky and on earth at His birth. There were signs in the miracles of multiplying loaves and fishes. There were miracles on the water. Storms were calmed. Winds and waves were rebuked. He walked on the waters. He cured all manner of diseases. He made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, the lame to walk. He raised the dead.
All these miracles of love, compassion, pity were for others. There was never one for Himself. Nor were they for the righteous only. The single test was "if thou canst believe." "Believest thou that I can do this?" "Thy faith hath saved thee." "Thy faith hath made thee whole." "Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. I will; be thou clean."
"Son, thy sins be forgiven thee," were the first words spoken to the paralytic. "Rise and walk" were the final ones. First the soul, then the body. The signs were flashes of light revealing for a moment the laws and forces of the supernatural world, fulfiling, but not destroying, the laws and forces of the natural world.
What do these signs mean to us? They mean what they have always meant to Christians. They mean what the Church has always told us they mean. They reveal the love and wisdom and power of God. They mean we are to expect miracles, recognized and unrecognized.
We may see miracles of grace daily in the church in the lives of believing penitents and hidden saints, in answers to prayer, in. the manifestations of Providence mysteriously ordering human lives. We can see the signs wherever we have eyes to see and ears to hear. We may try the signs to know if they are true by a single test. If they manifest the glory of Our Lord they are true.
Affectionately in Our Lord,