Messages as Miracles (and Vice Versa)

“Because Stories Have To Come From Somewhere.”- Frank, Alice, from “Summerland”
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.
Bethany was less than two miles [1] from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

John 11:17-23

“Summerland” is a British film on Netflix which is a complex, beautifully shot production. There are, to say the least, adult themes throughout, but the main thrust of the story lies with a writer, living alone, along the seacoast in World War II. She is, shall we say, ill-mannered and abrupt at times. Local authorities drop off a young boy evacuated from war-torn London whom she initially wants nothing to do with, but who plays a pivotal role in helping the writer learn there are messages, and there are miracles.

Concurrently, I am reminded of the account of Jesus and the raising of Lazarus from the dead. I find myself zeroing in not just on the miracle Jesus performed, but His response when Martha points out He could have saved Lazarus two days sooner. Jesus’ comment? These events are not on human terms, but God’s. Hear the message, experience the miracle.

Then, there are miracles with a small “m”. The incidents, at a time of God’s choosing, that seem insignificant, but which have a profound effect on so many aspects of our life, our loves, our search for where we fit in the larger secular society.

Patience is said to be a virtuous, and there’s no doubt that virtue tends to be in short supply these days, patience is almost demanded. In this context, I continue to hear stories about young people having tremendous challenges in meeting someone that is interested in marriage, period, let alone continuing in the dating life to be ready when “the one” is present in their life, the “message” that could, in God’s good time launch the “story”.

From the May 27, 2023, edition of The Wall Street Journal, an article “Why Americans Are Having Fewer Babies”:

“Young adults can’t afford to buy a house as nice as the one their parents raised them in or to pay for childcare while they are still repaying student loans. Many men lack the earning power to be providers, because blue-collar jobs don’t pay as well and fewer men are employed. More women can’t find a suitable partner because, with their own greater education and economic status, it’s harder for them to find a man who measures up.”

These are secular issues, to be sure, but when we consider the spiritual side, the “messaging”, perhaps we have not taught the younger generation to be attuned to hear what Elijah heard when he came out of the cave, awaiting God’s word, as described in Kings. It was the “tiny whisper”, the message that enabled Elijah to understand what purpose God had for him. Our young men and women seem to have not learned how to be listening, to be intuitive, to not immediately seek the answer, but to understand the question:

What is it you want of me? Is the person you have presented to me to meet and to talk with, to learn from and, Your will be done, to be the person I pray that I might grow with as we make our journey together? Is this person with whom I will combine my story with theirs in an entirely new account of life as a Catholic man and woman?

The Lord presents in his good time. We know instinctively what the right path is. With confidence, we hear His word, act, and start our new story from the small “m” miracle, as message. The ending … to be discovered, together.

Michael Throop