Dec 19, 2018
I was sitting at my desk one day this week. The phone rang and as I turned to answer it, I notice that caller ID said the call was coming from a friend I have from a former parish. It had been a while since we spoke and as I picked up the receiver, I thought she was likely calling to exchange holiday greetings. It turned out that was only one reason for calling. Her primary concern was to ask me for my prayers.
She called to ask me for my prayers for her daughter and her husband who are contemplating a trial separation. My friend explained that the couple has been experiencing marital difficulties for a few months. The husband lost his job about six months ago and really hasn’t been able to find one that is comparable to the one he lost. She said her daughter has been having her own issues with anxiety. The couple have been arguing for a while and believe a separation is the only solution. My friend told me that she had encouraged her daughter to pray for a miracle. She said her daughter told her that praying for a miracle was useless. She didn’t believe it could help to pray in her situation. As we ended our conversation, I promised to pray that my friend’s family would experiences a Christmas miracle.
Over the last few weeks I have been delivering a series of homilies on miracles. I told you that the word miracle comes from a Latin word meaning “wonderful sign”. I’ve discussed with you that most of us don’t believe in miracles. We understand that most things we call miracles are actually unexpected happenings that have a natural scientific explanation.
As Christians we do believe in a creator God. Our God formed the universe out of chaos. God didn’t just sit back then to observe how everything would turn out. We believe in a God who is active and attentive to creation. God lovingly watches over us and is ready to step in to help if need be. Although God setup creation according to a set of natural laws the scriptures tell us of many times when God chose to suspend those laws of nature and took an active role in the world. Those are true miracles.
It just so happens that many of those miracles are part of the Christmas story. Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and Wise Men all experienced miracles as part of the Christmas story. They experienced miracles because they were looking for them. There are so many miracles in the Christmas story because people were looking for them. My friend’s daughter doesn’t expect a miracle and doesn’t believe prayer will help make one come about because she has never really been looking for one. She has never really asked God for one and then followed through with prayer.
To experience a miracle, we need to be prepared for it to happen. We have to be on the lookout for miracles. Throughout Advent we have been listening to scripture readings here at Mass that urge us to be prepared. They have encouraged us to fill in the valleys and lower the mountains to make a straight path for the coming of the Lord. They have been telling us that we need to prepare the way for Christmas miracles in our own lives.
My friend is right to be praying and hoping for a miracle in the family situation because it is in times of storm and trouble in our lives that miracles happen. Problems and difficulties are the breeding ground for miracles. It is when we know that we can only depend on God that miracles happen.
Asking for a miracle in prayer is the most important thing that we can do to open our hearts to receive a Christmas miracle. It is the most important ingredient for a miracle. If we want a miracle, we have to ask God for it. But there is a right way and a wrong way to pray for a miracle.
Today’s Second Reading from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians gives us some good information on how to prayer so that we can receive a miracle. Paul and the Philippians had a very warm relationship. Paul had established the Church in Philippi during his second missionary journey. He visited it once more. Philippi was probably Paul’s favorite community. They stayed in contact. In today’s letter Paul thanks, the Philippians for their prayers and financial support for his missionary work.
At the time of today’s letter both Paul and the Philippians are facing crisis. As I was saying miracles come about in answer to a crisis or storm in our lives. Paul’s crisis is that he is in prison awaiting possible death. The Philippians seem to be facing possible persecution. There is a conflict between members of the community and they are anxious about when to expect the coming of Jesus a second time.
Even though both Paul and the Philippian community had a great deal to be anxious about Paul encourages them to rejoice. To rejoice in the face of storms and crisis seems far fetched especially for Paul who is in prison. Paul is not rejoicing in his circumstances but rejoicing in his close relationship with the Lord. He can do that because he believes that God is with him in his circumstances. He believes that an attentive God is by his side in his difficulties. He believes Jesus is with him because prayer has enabled Paul to grow in a relationship with Jesus. That feeling of closeness with Jesus brings Paul joy. He can rejoice because Jesus is close to him and is supporting him. Since Paul approaches prayer with joy he is able to trust in God and God’s promise of a miracle.
Anxiety is what keeps us from being able to really pray and allow ourselves to be prepared to recognize God’s miracles in our lives. My friend’s daughter doesn’t believe in miracles and says prayer doesn’t work in her life because she allows herself to be filled with anxiety. Paul says that the key to our relationship with Jesus is to overcome anxiety and embrace trust in God.
Paul urges the Philippians not to be anxious even in the face of struggle. He claims that if we approach prayer with joy and the belief that God is attentive to us, we can drive out worry and fear. Prayer has the power to do that. Paul tells us that if we face a storm or crisis in our life, we can pin it down with prayer. Don’t spend your time awfulizing your problems. Don’t waste your life worrying about what could happen or might happen but focus on the belief that God will do what is best for us. God won’t necessarily bring the miracle we ask for but will provide the miracle that we need in every situation.
Paul also encourages the Philippians to include thanksgiving in prayer. Paul tells them that if they approach the need for a miracle with an attitude of gratitude and thank God for God’s miracles even before they happen, they will more easily recognize them when the come.
That was Jesus’ attitude towards miracles too. When Jesus needed a miracle during his ministry, he believed that it would happen and it did. That is displayed especially in the story of the resuscitation of Lazarus from the dead. Just before he commands the people to roll back the stone from Lazarus’ grave Jesus prays for a miracle. Jesus asks God to hear his prayer for a miracle and then says that he knows that God always hears his prayers and will provide the miracle that is needed. In John’s gospel Jesus is sure that God always hears his prayers and is ready to provide the miracle. Jesus thanks God for the miracle that is about to unfold. Jesus says that he is confident that God hears him and has only asked for God to hear him because of the presence of the crowd. If you want a Christmas miracle start thanking God for it today.
Thank God for the past miracles he has performed in your life already. Think of all the miracles big and small that God has already performed in your life. Since I began giving this series of homilies people have approached me to tell me of the many miracles from God they have received in their lives. Not all of them were ones that they initially wanted and prayed for but all of them were the ones they needed.
This week as you continue praying for your Christmas miracle. Be specific about the miracle you need. What is it you really want God to give you? Don’t just pray for peace but pray for peace in a particular relationship. If it is your finances where you need a miracle pray that you can control your spending in a particular area. If you need a miracle for your health pray for healing of a specific condition.
In your prayer put aside your anxiety, be joyful and rejoice that God will be sending you the miracle that you really need this Christmas. Give God thanks that a generous God will be providing you with the answer to your prayers at Christmas. Try to really clear state to yourself the miracle you want this Christmas.
As we prepare to receive the Eucharist today God will pour into our souls the gift of grace to deepen our relationship with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That grace will open our hearts to the belief that our prayers for a Christmas miracle will be answered. If we allow it grace will fill your heart with joy. If we allow it grace will ease your anxiety and make us grateful that God desires to help us to be open to the miracles, we need this Christmas.