When we read about the works of Jesus, we often talk about them with the same level of enthusiasm we would refer to an anchor on the nightly news. Well, I do, not intentionally though. So, I began to think about what were my general expectations regarding life, work, and most importantly my faith. As deep and philosophical as the question certainly appear on the surface, I assure you, they are as important as any question you can ask yourself. I found my expectational level placed importance on those things which mattered in the larger scheme of life. Of course, I wasn’t focused on money, I was taught from the earliest age, money should never motivate you to do what is right and what you love. Thankfully, I’ve never been one to make decisions wholly about what sort of financial gain I hope to make. I have made decisions with it in mind, but never the complete focus. No, my expectations were more geared towards, what was I hoping to gain, and how would it benefit me in reaching my own ambiguous goals. So therein lied the most distinct problem I was facing and I didn’t even realize it; I had no idea what my true goals were, and so I had no true expectations of myself or anything else.
When Jesus entered the synagogue, and removes an unclean spirit, and removed the spirit with authority, the people were astounded. (Source – Mk 1:21-28) I had to read this passage several times for all of this to sink in; he performed an astounding thing, one most of us have either only read about, or seen dramatized (in most cases poorly) on film. What were the expectations of the people around him? Were they expecting him to fail, as I’m sure many people tried but failed in the past? Was the possessed man written off as a crazy person or just plain mean? These thoughts ran through my mind and it appears he blew the expectations out of the water for the people in the synagogue. His teachings were one of authority as well; we must remember this was a man who was a tekton (a tradesman) most likely and not one who was taught as the Pharisees (educated) were taught, like Saul of Tarsus. So, the larger picture came to my mind about someone doing something wonderful, and us reading the works with the ability of hindsight have given way to emotions such as “ehh” or “hmm” when regarding this altogether.
So, the next expectational question comes to my mind, are we just understanding what is going on? Do we really comprehend the magnitude of the events? I have from time-to-time had discussions with non-believers where I want to know their perceptions of what I read, and just how profound an event like this would be. I ask questions such as “do you think you would travel far and wide to let people know about this event you’ve witnessed, or is it something you’d be content just telling people about if the topic of conversation comes up?”, and often it’s the latter. Though the same individuals would consider not visiting family for the opportunity to see the latest movie or stand in line for coffee from your standard coffee shop. I see an opportunity to adjust what people think when it comes either to the astounding or the miraculous.
The “miraculous”, what an over-used word these days; we use it when something happens which we can neither explain or have ever heard of. However, the Catholic Church, an authority on the matter classifies a miracle very distinctly. It must be of a divine power, beyond the power of nature so in essence “supernatural”, beyond the order of nature (so our souls are not miracles if they bring order to nature as we know it), it must be extraordinary in the sense as to be beyond the pale of the graces given to us by God, and finally it must be sensible the miracle “serving as a seal to authenticate God’s communication to humanity”. (Broussard, article)
So, when we hear someone utilize a subject set of facts to indicate their perception of a miracle and this is consistently used repeatedly by people we meet every day or by interviews of people who claim it. We are at risk of watering down the wine which produces the best flavor for our overall expectations (Wedding Feast at Cana; John 2:10)
If I’m being honest with myself and of course you, I feel this is my lack of reaction when I read about Jesus’s astounding actions and even those of modern day miracles. Are we holding ourselves to a higher standard with what we expect? In short, I wasn’t, I was desiring a tangibility with everything I experience, and at the same time becoming numb to what was truly miraculous. This plays in to my original assertion, about the questions to people who would go far and wide if they were witness to such events. Based on what I can see now, I wouldn’t go anywhere either.
Our perceptions of miracles come from everyone who claims that something wonderful must have been a miracle, when the truth of the matter is the event they are retelling is wonderful, unexplainable even, but not necessarily a miracle. In this context, we must be more discerning and willing to say no to more things, regardless of the perception of another. In this context, we may create a new equilibrium with our expectations of the miraculous and in this we might be more willing to understand a zealousness or fervent desire to spread the good news.
This reassessment of our expectations should be proffered to all aspects of our culture and society at large. What do we gain by allowing a subjective point of view to dictate the direction our society and lives are pushed in? Now we come to the meat of the matter. Is it better to create a specificity which encompasses exactly what we’re looking for, either in expectation or action? I know this would meet the very scientific and exacting nature in most people. What’s the alternative though? Should there be a broader scope to our overall expectation, whereby objective interpretation and ideologies are more conducive to a larger society allowing for growth in general proper directions?
The objective truth is, we will never be able to suffice the needs of each person, and to try and do so, becomes a subversion of the truth and actual desires. In some small way, it is a justified lie to ourselves and the others around us, based on use of logical fallacy. It sounds right, so it must be our mentality and actions associated in accordance. Take for instance, the concept of “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, then I’m ok with it”, probably one of the worst things to come out in the last few generations (I’m ok, you’re ok). This sense of being in our own bubble and having our own space which will insulate us if no one interferes with us. So, what happens when someone interferes with us? Are we so special as to receive a special consideration for any specific event going forward? The answer is no, if you don’t bother to have an ever forward look for actions and events in your society, the society is doomed to repeat the past events of other great societies (e.g. Rome). We must take an avid interest in the events and the people around us; I tell my kids all the time, pick up your clothes and take them to the laundry. I don’t tell them this because I see them watching tv and their inactivity bothers me, no, instead I tell them this because I know if they keep up with their work, at the end of the day they will have less work at a single time. Our expectations (from the society’s standpoint) is just like my kids letting their clothes pile up. Society requires as much diligent effort as a chore would require, and yes, it’s work. Work stinks, especially when you don’t want to do it; but this is what is required of all of us, to change the expectation of everyone and gear ourselves for hard work. When we’re willing to work hard for something, although it may not turn out as we always plan, the ending result will be something we all can recognize as going in the right direction. When we hold our fellow brothers, sisters, citizens to this standard we stand a chance of having similar goals, and ideologies.
I pray, my words make sense to anyone who chooses to read them; I want the best for everyone and society in general. I know I may not always be a benefactor of what is chosen, but I have enough presence of mind to recognize good when I see it. I think this stems from a desire to objectively look at my surroundings, if we can objectively understand what is happening, we have a better chance to make a more concerted difference in our lives and the lives of the people around us. Many years ago, when I was in my late twenties I was forced to decide for the benefit of my children, I wasn’t a fan. The decision put me at a disadvantage to others who were also affected by the decision. I was getting the short-end of the stick, so to speak. However, I made the decision, knowing I was on the losing end per se, and this opened a door to manhood for me. I can truly say, I didn’t become a man till I reached this point in my life; an expectation of what’s right and wrong was placed upon me, and I had to decide for the best, the need for my unselfish decision was the only right decision I could make. I did so, and although the overall situation was tenuous at best, it was a good decision for the betterment of my kids and everyone involved. When I reflect upon this, many years later, I realize this is what our society has done for many generations to this point. Look at the sacrifices of our soldiers on the beaches of Normandy, many of those boys were at a point in their lives where they were inexperienced in just about everything, they were kids! They had to summon the courage (perhaps courage as a result of naivety, but true courage not to be questioned) out of true understanding of the events which were unfolding, and indeed they had to sacrifice their lives for something much greater than themselves. Those boys became men on the beach in a far distant land, in a hostile environment, and with no one to cheer them on for their potential success or failure. Many of those men died and never truly got the chance to show their loved ones what an excellent man they’d turned into. They decided to do something, knowing it may have negative results for themselves but would ultimately be better for their loved ones and the future generations to come.
This does apply to the expectation of people now; had the Higgins boats as they moved towards shore decided to turn around because the soldiers stated, “I’m not much for dying today”, where would society be then? Life is about sacrifice, when we can place this into proper perspective, then we can see our expectations take a natural position where they were always meant to be. Be willing to sacrifice your time, efforts, and energy for the betterment of society and culture around you. Be willing to say “no”, respectfully, be willing to dialogue about those things which in epidermal efficacy provide nothing more than the impetus to fostering a better society.
May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!!!
(Catholic Answers, Karlo Broussard; https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/what-constitutes-a-miracle