A Matter of Proximity
very long ago, hundreds of people flocked
to see what appeared to be an image of the
Blessed Virgin Mary ... in the condensation
that had occurred upon a window at a local
hospital in Boston. Some came from great
distances. Many came as long as the image
appeared, and, being interviewed on local
television news, expressed no doubt about
the authentic and “miraculous” nature of
such a thing as they continue to marvel
at the image, pondering its significance.
In yet another instance, a tree growing
somewhere in the Southern United States
had resembled the profile of Our Blessed
Lord, and thousands came to gaze upon the
In a similar way, people, many thousands,
have gone, and continue to go, to Medjugorje,
to a place where, they believe, Mary has
appeared for the past 30 years (about 10,000
-12,000 times) ... to a group of (then)
young people in 1981, conversed with them,
and, they claim, still does to this day.
They have gone in the hopes of seeing their
Rosaries turn to gold, or to witness some
other inexplicable phenomena that will,
for them, validate their faith, or enable
them to return home with some account of
the miraculous that they themselves had
witnessed, and in so doing entering into
an inner circle of the privileged and the
elect to whom such extraordinary graces
are given, graces that are not dispensed
to the many.
This is not to say that some good has not
come from condensation on glass, or the
shape of a tree, or a Rosary appearing to
turn to gold for a moment or two. To my
understanding, no one has brought back a
Rosary that has remained gold; the condensation
has evaporated, and the tree has acquired
new branches and leaves and now resembles
something quite different and more akin
to ... well ... a tree.
We flock to the miraculous and the extraordinary,
not because we
believe in miracles, but I think because
we do not
and wish to (although
as Catholics, we must). We want
the evidence. Like King Herod, before whom
Christ was brought on the night of His Passion,
we demand a miracle, hard copy, proof —
which, of course, would make faith unnecessary.
We needn't have faith in something proven
to us, in things evident. We do not understand
ourselves as having faith in gravity.
We do not need it. An ill-placed step on
a stairway suffices to remind us. The Apostle
Thomas wanted proof and got it. But at the
price of a lesser blessing (St. John 20.24-29).
What has this to do with the Holy Sacrifice
of the Mass?
Consider this — not ex hypothesi,
but as as an actual event: You are
sitting at home when a neighbor bursts into
the door and breathlessly exclaims that
Jesus Christ has just appeared down the
street — and He is still there! You look
up in amazement, incredulous before your
neighbor. In a trice you grab the keys to
your car and speed off down the street,
heedless of all else, hoping to get to the
place where you will find Jesus Christ Himself!
You've left the water boiling for your tea,
the door open, and the television still
on ... in fact, you realize as you are speeding
along that you've even forgotten to put
on your shoes! Who cares? If this
is real, you would have fled your house
naked grabbing a towel on the way.
You eventually come to where your friend
had told you that Jesus is — and there is
nothing and no one.
You are furious! You speed back even more
quickly to scold your erstwhile friend for
sending you on a wild goose chase. He is
still back at your house, standing in the
driveway. Barely able to restrain yourself
from parking precisely where he is standing,
you fling open the door to your car and
jump out, full of indignation!
Your friend is astonished.
was there when I left”,
you certain that you went to the right
He hops in your car and back you go. Then,
coming to the Church, he tells you to stop!
“Come along!”, he urges you, impatiently.
You get out and follow him through the door
of the Church, barely able to keep pace
with your friend, and then, at the end of
the aisle, before the Tabernacle, he stops.
You look around. The Church is empty.
You look at your friend, utterly bewildered
... but he has fallen to the floor on his
face in front of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
And you are left standing ... and
still you do not understand.
Herod believed in miracles too ... or wanted
to. Even as the Author of all miracles
stood before him. (St. Luke 23.8)
What we have learned today:
If truly we believe, we would hasten
to the Most Blessed Sacrament of
the Altar – where Jesus really and
truly IS ... hidden under the
appearance of mere bread.
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