If the Church is to once again draw huge numbers of willing people, then it must once again be identified with God’s supernatural graces as well as works of charity.
Jesus could not heal the sick”. These words, written by US evangelist Bill Johnson, may shock many Catholics; however, they do not contradict the Church’s teachings in any way.
Johnson does not deny the 100 per cent divinity of Jesus but claims that, because he chose to live on earth as fully human in all aspects but sin, he was not endowed with supernatural powers.
Jesus himself said, “By Myself I can do nothing” (John 5:30).
If he only performed miracles, signs and wonders because he was God, Johnson argues, then they would be unattainable for us mere mortals, but this, he says, is not God’s plan.
So, as Catholics, is it wrong to believe that we are capable of replicating the same supernatural signs that Jesus did?
It certainly doesn’t seem to contradict the Catechism, which quotes St Thomas Aquinas, “The only begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods” (CCC-460).
Jesus’ own words confirm the reality of our spiritual potential.
In Mark’s Gospel, he tells the Apostles that the signs associated with believers will include casting out demons and healing the sick and, even more confronting is his statement, “In truth I tell you, whoever believes in Me will perform the same works as I do Myself, and will perform even greater works” (John 14:12).
By intentionally confining himself to human form, Jesus demonstrated to every believer, if they live in right relationship with God and submit to His Holy Spirit, they too could become a channel of God’s supernatural power.
God was only able to work through Jesus because, as a man, he chose to submit himself totally and utterly to his Father, even to death.
This choice to become a sacrifice opened the doors that had been shut by sin and provided all believers with the potential to imitate the miraculous works of Christ.
So where today are the supernatural signs and wonders that were the signature of the early Church?
Where are the miracles that drew thousands at a time to embrace the fledgling community founded by a crucified carpenter? The Acts of the Apostles is full of supernatural signs that are worked through early believers, but they seem to have faded over time.
Today, it seems we associate miracles only with the saints and see them as an exception rather than the rule – a far cry from the regularity recorded by the first followers.
Why? It is rare to hear of the blind seeing, the deaf hearing and the lame walking within Catholic circles, yet these are the miraculous signs that we should be expecting.
They should be no less part of the Church today as they were 2,000 years ago.
In 1 Corinthians 12 we are told that the gifts of the Spirit include healing, miracles and prophecy which the Holy Spirit will distribute to each person as he desires.
The Catholic Church is and has always been open to these charisms, acknowledging that they have been given, “to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church” (CCC-2003).
So why is it that the Catholic Church is currently admired more for her works of charity than as a spiritual manifestation of God?
That is not to say that we should abandon these projects, but there are many secular charities performing equally wonderful works in providing for the needy.
If the Church is to once again draw huge numbers of passionate people who are willing to sacrifice all for the Body of Christ on earth, then she must once again be identified with God’s supernatural graces.
We have all been gifted with the power of God through the sacraments, yet it seems that the Holy Spirit has been stifled.
It is as though we are carrying around a cheque of infinite value, yet we are not willing to cash it in.
Perhaps it is time we stopped using the excuses of being too afraid, of not having enough faith, of being too embarrassed, of not feeling worthy or just being contented to simply fill the pews on a Sunday, give a few dollars and be kind to others.
Perhaps it is time to simply ponder and embrace the words of the One who taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.”