Christ the Miracle Worker in the Eucharist by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.
This article is recommended reading for Advanced Course Lesson 3 and Lesson 6, question 3.
During His visible stay on earth Christ performed countless miracles. He restored sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf and the use of their limbs to the paralyzed. The winds and sea obeyed Him. He told the dead Lazarus to come forth, and Lazarus came out of the grave. The crowning miracle of Christ’s visible stay on earth was to raise Himself by His own divine power on Easter Sunday.
But Christ continues performing miracles in our day. I know of no single statement I can share with you that is more practically important than to be convinced that Christ works and wants to perform miracles in our favor today. And that we can add, for the best of reasons, because Jesus Christ is still on earth. And He promised, “Behold, I am with you all days even to the end of the world.”
Miracles through Christ’s Visible Humanity
As we examine the Gospel narratives we find two remarkable facts.
1) First, Jesus regularly associated His teaching with working with what John calls “signs and wonders.” These signs and wonders made His humanly incomprehensible teaching believable. Miracles are necessary to make God’s revelation credible. Please do not forget that. That statement is an Article of the Catholic Faith.
2) Secondly – Christ during His visible stay on earth worked these miracles of course as God, but always through His humanity. In other words, the miracles performed by Jesus in Palestine were always the result of human words spoken, or the result of the touch of Christ’s human hands. On one dramatic occasion a women was suddenly healed of years of hemorrhaging the moment she tugged on Christ’s garments.
Jesus therefore performed (past tense) astounding wonders related in the Gospels. Always by His divine omnipotence but, (watch the preposition) but through His human nature as man. We are also told that on occasion that Jesus could not (this is the Almighty) perform miracles in certain places. Why not? Because of the people’s lack of faith. The two words humanity and faith are crucial to an understanding to the working of miracles.
The Key to the Eucharist is the Humanity of Jesus Christ
At this point we turn to the Real Presence and we ask ourselves. “What is this Real Presence?” In one declarative sentence – IT IS JESUS CHRIST – true God, but, with emphasis, also – true man. It is the same identical Jesus who changed water into wine at Cana in Galilee. The same who invited Peter to come to Him walking on the water. The Real Presence is the real Jesus with real flesh and real blood, with the same hands and feet and open side that He told the doubting Thomas to touch and believe.
Once this fact dawns on a person – (It is not dawned on everyone who calls himself a Catholic; how well I know). – But once this fact dawns on our minds that Christ performed His miracles as God but through His human nature as man, then the inevitable happens. That person’s faith is rewarded by the experience of miracles.
I am not exaggerating. I am not indulging in hyperbole. We all need miracles in our lives. Let’s be sure we know what we are saying. During His public ministry the Savior assured His followers they would continue working miracles in their favor. Even more; He promised that the miracles they would perform would be greater than those which His contemporaries witnessed during His visible stay in Palestine.
However, let’s have no misunderstanding; Christ the Almighty Son of God, who became man, worked miracles during His visible stay on earth only in favor of those who believed. Those who believed that the man they called Jesus was no one less than Almighty God. We should therefore expect this same Jesus to continue working miracles. But I repeat, only for those who believe that the same Jesus is still on earth, but now demanding our faith twice over. He wants us to believe that He is in the Holy Eucharist with the fullness of His humanity, and also to believe that His human nature is united with the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
Christ’s contemporaries during His visible stay on earth had only to believe that the man that they saw with bodily eyes was the Incarnate God. We however are to believe that what looks like bread and tastes like wine is the Son of God who became the Son of Mary.
Faith, the Condition for Christ’s Performing Miracles
Faith, I repeat is the condition for Christ performing miracles. Is it any wonder that our faith in the Real Presence, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, should be rewarded by miraculous phenomena? But, what an important adversative, but, YOU MUST BELIEVE!
What is a Miracle?
What is a miracle? I thought before we went any further it would be useful to explain briefly what a miracle is. It would be equally useful to know that God works different kinds of miracles. Different levels, if you wish, of miracles. It would be especially useful to know that our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament performs the highest kinds of miracles which only He, our Incarnate God, can produce.
In general, a miracle is any effect perceptible by the senses, produced by God which surpasses the powers of nature. Immediately we must explain that there are three levels of natural laws that God can surpass and thus perform a miracle.
1) There are the physical laws of visible nature. Thus the sudden healing of a fatal disease surpasses needless to say the powers of human physical nature. Indeed, surpasses the powers of all physical nature. Walking on water is naturally impossible. The raising of a dead human being back to life exceeds all created power, and no one but God with His omnipotence can raise a dead person back to life. And just for the record, physical miracles are the lowest level of miraculous phenomena.
2) On a higher level than physical miracles is the performance of what the Church calls moral miracles. A moral miracle exceeds the powers of the human will in the practice of superhuman moral virtue. For which the Church has coined the term “heroic moral virtue.” This in fact is one of the norms used by the Church in her assessment of authentic sanctity. The lives of saints like Francis of Assisi and Thomas More. The deaths of martyrs like Saint Agnes and Maria Goretti. These are witnesses to the miraculous power that Christ has given to His most beloved followers over the centuries. In other words, every canonized saint is a moral miracle. And today’s world needs (what a safe statement) men and women and even children who are practicing what the Church calls heroic virtue.
3) Finally, still on the different levels of miraculous phenomena there are intellectual miracles in which God enlightens the human mind beyond all natural capacity for acquiring knowledge. The most obvious witnesses to this highest level in the time of Christ were (Shall I say it?) the dense thick-headed Apostles. God had to enlighten them, and this is part of our faith – miraculously. However, over the centuries Christ has continued performing these miracles of the intellect. In a Saint Augustine of Hippo, and in a Saint Therese of Avila, or in a Catherine of Siena. These testify to the power of Christ, the Incarnate Truth, can produce among human beings who believe that He is indeed the living God in human form.
So much for the basis of our conference. Now we go through each one of these three levels of miraculous phenomena.
1) Physical miracles through the Holy Eucharist. The history of the Catholic Church is nothing less than the history of miracles performed by Jesus Christ. So true is this that one of the marks of the true Church – besides being one, holy, catholic and apostolic – is also the capacity to perform miracles. That is, physical phenomena which are beyond the laws of physical nature. And what we dare not forget is that so many of these wonders are performed by our Lord through the Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
The classic evidence for this are the miracles that occur at Our Lady’s shrine at Lourdes in France. Remember it was Our Lady who obtained from her divine Son the first miracle He performed in His public ministry when He changed water into wine at the marriage feast at Cana in Galilee. From the very beginning the shrine at Lourdes witnessed countless physical wonders. By now thousands, testified scientifically. We commonly associate these wonders with the people bathing in the water at Lourdes. What we are liable to forget however is that part, an essential part, of the phenomena at the sanctuary in Lourdes is the fact that the sick and even the dying are blessed with the sacred monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament.
One of the classic examples is the sudden cure recorded by a physician who was part of the examining board at the Lourdes shrine. According to this physician the sudden healing of a women dying of cancer was the most medically remarkable experience he had in his two decades of working with the examining board. She arrived at Lourdes in a dying condition. First she was immersed at the water at Lourdes. The first effect was excruciating pain. Then the pain ceased but the cancer remained. It was only the next day when the priest blessed her with the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance that she was immediately cured of her cancerous condition.
Over the years similar wonders have been recorded about the power of the Blessed Sacrament through the intercession of Our Lady to perform miracles of bodily healing in favor always only of those who believed. All that we find recorded in the Gospels about the miraculous cures performed by Jesus can be duplicated many times over by the account of similar signs and wonders where the miracles took place through the Holy Eucharist. – So far the working of physically miraculous phenomena through the Blessed Sacrament.
2) Now moral miracles through the Blessed Sacrament. Here we shift our emphasis from the phenomenal physical wonders performed by our Eucharistic Lord to the more important manifestations of power, miraculous power, in favor of moral virtue even to the heights of heroism. But in teaching theology to my own Jesuits for twenty-five years, only to priests or priests to be, I spent not just hours, but cumulatively weeks, in explaining to them the need for the Blessed Sacrament to work moral miracles.
The lives of the saints, what an eloquent testimony these are to the super, super human graces that Christ confers on those who come to Him believing in His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. Among these graces none is more exalted than the power of extraordinary patience in suffering–what the Eucharistic Savior gives to those who invoke Him in the Blessed Sacrament.
Here I think it is worth quoting at some length from the classic book on the Holy Eucharist. Hundreds of pages written on the Blessed Sacrament by Saint Alphonsus Liguori, founder, as I am sure you know, of the Redemptorists and the official patron of moral theologians.
Saint Alphonsus Liguori – “This earth is a place for meriting and therefore it is a place for suffering. Our true country where God has prepared for us to repose in everlasting joy is Paradise. We have but a short time to stay in this world. But in this short time we have many labors to undergo. ‘Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of miseries’ (Job 14:1).”
Saint Alphonsus wrote: “We must suffer and all must suffer be they just or be they sinners. Each one must carry his cross. He that carries the cross with patience is saved. The one who does not carry the cross with patience will not reach Paradise.” And quoting Saint Augustine said: “By the test of suffering the chaff in the Church of God is distinguished from the wheat. He that humbles himself under tribulation and is resigned to the will of God is wheat for Paradise. He that grows haughty and is enraged and so forsakes God because he has so much to suffer that person is chaff for Hell.”
We see, therefore, that patience produces saints and impatience leads to everlasting separation from God. The whole theme, and not only of Saint Alphonsus, but of all the great Catholic writers about the practice of heroic virtue, remind us where we can obtain the patience, even heroic endurance of suffering, from God. Without exception they tell us there is grace to practice even heroic patience and it comes from Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Christ had to endure the agony of the Cross to make the Holy Eucharist possible. It is especially from Him present on our altars in the Blessed Sacrament that we obtain a share in His power of enduring our crosses as the prelude of eternal glory.
It is Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament who confers the humanly impossible power of enduring pain, suffering, and doing so heroically. Especially as I keep telling one audience after another, suffering from those we love. Oh how they can cause us pain indeed agony! If we love them, which is humanly impossible, it is because Jesus Christ is on earth to perform the moral miracles of providing us with the strength we need to follow His example, and as He did, so we embrace our cross.
Immediately on receiving the grace of Baptism, new converts (for that matter children), but especially adult converts, receive from Christ the grace to be faithful in living a community life. And living a life of selfless charity with other human beings. In the early Church, we are told as described in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, that those baptized on Pentecost Sunday received the grace of living with one another in selfless, loving charity.
Much has happened over the centuries, and yet, what the first Christians received on being baptized, they also received the virtue (which means the power) to live with people who are not amiable. Indeed, living with people who are not lovable, and not just putting up with, but loving those who may positively hate us. All I can tell you is you need, and I need, the power that Jesus Christ confers through His presence in the Holy Eucharist. If we are going to practice the virtues Christ demands of those that claim they love Him – and I mean every syllable of this next clause – the graces we need are miraculous graces beyond the capacity of the human will to practice.
That is why our country has the sad reputation of harboring (shall I use that word?) the most unstable family life in the world. How cheap the words of a couple on their wedding day, “I accept you as my wife/husband in poverty and riches. For better and for worse until death do us part.”
The Holy See has told me in the United States only those parishes, only those dioceses will survive where there are still Bishops, priests and married people who believe that a sacramental marriage consummated cannot be broken by any human power.
The Catholic Church will survive only where there are still Catholics who believe that what is humanly impossible is possible with the grace that Jesus Christ gives through the Blessed Sacrament. And with emphasis on those who are married, how much preaching has to be done, how much re-convincing of millions of professed Catholics to realize without the Blessed Sacrament at the Sacrifice of the Mass, as Holy Communion and as Real Presence, we cannot, I repeat and reemphasize WE CANNOT practice the moral virtues that we must perform to be saved. Not in America. We are to obtain the grace to live a heroically moral life from our Lord in the Holy Eucharist.
3) Our last part, intellectual miracles through the Blessed Sacrament. To many people it must seem odd to identify the highest form of miraculous phenomena as enlightenment of the human mind. However, a moment’s reflection will tell us it is not unusual at all. Saint Paul could not be more clear. He tells us, “Faith is the substance of things to be hoped for. The evidence of things that are not seen. For by faith the men of old had testimony born to them. By faith we understand that the world was fashioned by the Word of God, and thus things visible were made out of things invisible.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Everything in Christianity finally depends on our faith. The mind must be enlightened by the light of the living God. In order to know what is God’s will at every moment of our lives. The more deep our faith, the deeper our hope. The stronger our faith the more selfless our love.
What are we saying? We are saying that the most important miracles we need in our lives are not physical or even miracles of the will. What we mainly need is enlightenment of our minds by the Incarnate Truth who is present in our midst in the Blessed Sacrament.
No words of mine can begin to explain the importance of praying before the Blessed Sacrament. In order to obtain from our Eucharistic Lord the understanding of His revealed truth and to know how to share this truth with others. For most people prayer before the Blessed Sacrament is mainly, but not exclusively, a prayer of adoration. Of course, our highest form of prayer is to adore the living God; especially the God who became man to dwell among us. He dwells among us literally, physically, geographically in the most Holy Eucharist in every tabernacle of every Catholic Church throughout the world. But, and I am speaking now from a lifetime experience especially as a priest, Our Eucharistic prayer is not only to be the prayer of adoration, but also that of Saint Thomas the Apostle. Remember how he addresses our Savior, “My Lord and my God?” Christ is in our midst in order that we might come to Him and obtain from Him the illumination of mind which we so constantly and desperately need.
The human will is a blind faculty. We don’t know with our wills alone what to choose, what to reject, what to love. Our wills must be enlightened by the mind and the mind must be enlightened by the mind of the living God who became man.
The modern apostle of the Eucharist, Saint Peter Julian Eymard, tells us how the Eucharist is our way. Christ identified (past tense) Himself as “the Way.” By this He meant that His mind, the mind of God which assumed, a human mind is to be the path that our minds must follow.
Christ’s intellect is to be the guide for our intelligence. Here I could speak not for an hour but for weeks of how indispensable – I repeat how indispensable – I repeat once more – how indispensable is prayer before the Blessed Sacrament to enlighten these dull, blind minds of ours; to understand what we believe and to know how we are to behave.
All of this has profound implications for our spiritual life. Jesus Christ is in the Holy Eucharist for a thousand reasons. But, and I mean this superlative, the single most fundamental reason why Christ is in the Holy Eucharist is that He might educate our minds to understand who He is to penetrate into the meaning of the mysteries we believe, to understand how He wants us to live our lives.
By now I have told enough people that there is no problem repeating – only God knows how naturally dull and stupid this writer is. That is why over the years most of my writing for publication, and for most of my teaching of classes, I have learned from Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
Here I ask how have the great masters of Christian theology obtained their superhuman grasp of the mysteries revealed by God? It has been from their meditation before Jesus Christ, Incarnate Truth present in the Blessed Sacrament.
In closing, I wish to share with you what I have learned in by now almost fifty years in the priesthood. The one place on earth that our minds are mainly enlightened by the mind of God is in the presence of God Incarnate in the Holy Eucharist.
How today’s overly-educated world needs to know this. Time again we read again how in the Gospels Christ restored sight to the blind people of Palestine. All of this was a prelude to the miracles of phenomenal miraculous enlightenment that the Eucharistic Savior performs in favor of those who come to Him and say, “Lord I am blind enable me to see.”
Lord Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament teach us from experience what wonders you work in favor of those that come to you present in the Holy Eucharist to work miracles of body, of will and especially of mind because, dear Jesus, the Holy Eucharist is You and You are our God. And with God nothing is impossible. Amen.
Copyright © 2000 by Inter Mirifica