Miracles as Signs of the Supernatural Order

Author: Pope John Paul II

In his General Audience on Wednesday, 13 January 1988, the Holy Father reflected on the nature of miracles.

1. Speaking of the miracles performed by Jesus during his mission on earth, Saint Augustine, in an interesting text, interprets them as signs of saving power and love and as stimuli to rise to the kingdom of heavenly things.

"The miracles that Our Lord Jesus Christ performed —he writes— are divine works that teach the human mind to rise above visible things, to understand what God is" (Augustine, In Io. Ev. Tr. , 24, 1).

2. We can refer to this thought by reaffirming the close union of the "miracles-signs" performed by Jesus with the call to faith. Indeed, such miracles demonstrated the existence of the supernatural order , which is the object of faith. To those who observed them and, particularly, to those who experienced them in their person, these miracles made them verify, almost by hand, that the order of nature does not exhaust all of reality. The universe in which man lives is not enclosed only within the framework of the order of things accessible to the senses and to the intellect itself conditioned by sensible knowledge. The miracle is a "sign" that this order is superior by the "Power from on high" , and, consequently , is also subject to it . East"Power from on high" (cf. Lk 24:49), that is, God himself, is above the entire order of nature. This power directs the natural order and, at the same time, makes it known that—through this order and above it—man's destiny is the kingdom of God . The miracles of Christ are "signs" of this kingdom.

3. However, miracles are not in opposition to the forces and laws of nature , but imply only a certain "suspension" that can be experienced from their ordinary function, not their annulment. Moreover, the miracles described in the Gospel indicate the existence of a Power that surpasses the forces and laws of nature, but that, at the same time, works in line with the demands of nature itself, although above its current normal capacity.Isn't this what happens, for example, in every miraculous healing? The potentiality of the forces of nature is activated by divine intervention, which extends it beyond the sphere of its normal possibility of action. This does not eliminate or frustrate the causality that God has communicated to things in creation, nor does it violate the "natural laws" established by Himself and inscribed in the structure of creation, but rather exalts and, in a way, ennobles the ability of acting or also of receiving the effects of the operation of the other, as happens precisely in the cures described in the Gospel.

4. The truth about creation is the first and fundamental truth of our faith. However, it is not the only one, nor the supreme one. Faith teaches us that the work of creation is enclosed in the scope of God's design, which reaches with the understanding of him far beyond the limits of creation itself. Creation —particularly the human creature called into existence in the visible world—is open to an eternal destiny, fully revealed in Jesus Christ. Also in Him the work of creation is completed by the work of salvation. And salvation means a new creation (cf. 2 Cor 5, 17; Gal6, 15), a "new creation", a creation according to the original design of the Creator, a reestablishment of what God had done and that in the history of man had suffered confusion and "corruption", as a consequence of the sin.

The miracles of Christ enter into the project of the "new creation" and are thus linked to the order of salvation . They are salvific "signs" that call for conversion and faith, and along these lines, for the renewal of the world subjected to "corruption" (cf. Rom 8:19-21). They do not, therefore, stop at the ontological order of creation (creatio) , which they also affect and restore, but enter the soteriological order of the new creation (re-creatio totius universi) , of which they are co -efficient and to which, as "signs", they bear witness.

5. The soteriological order has its axis in the Incarnation; and also the "miracles-signs" of which the Gospels speak, find their foundation in the very reality of the Man-God . This reality-mystery encompasses and surpasses all the miraculous events in connection with the messianic mission of Christ. It can be said that the Incarnation is the "miracle of miracles", the radical and permanent "miracle" of the new order of creation. God's entry into the dimension of creation takes place in the reality of the Incarnation in a unique way and, in the eyes of faith, becomes a "sign" incomparably superior to all other miraculous "signs" of the presence and of divine action in the world. What's more, all these other "signs"in the reality of the Incarnation , they radiate their attractive force, they are witnesses of it . They make believers repeat what the evangelist John writes at the end of the Prologue on the Incarnation: " And we have seen his glory , her glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" ( Jn 1, 14).

6. If the Incarnation is the fundamental sign to which all the "signs" that testify to the disciples and to humanity that "the kingdom of God has come" (cf. Lk 11:20 ) refer, there is also a last and definitive sign , to which Jesus alludes, referring to the Prophet Jonah: "Because, as Jonah was in the belly of the cetacean three days and three nights, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of to earth" ( Mt 12, 40): it is the "sign" of the resurrection .

Jesus prepares the Apostles for this definitive "sign," but he does so gradually and tactfully, recommending discretion "until a certain time." A particularly clear allusion occurs after the transfiguration on the mount: "Coming down the mount, he forbade them to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of man had risen from the dead" ( Mk9, 9). We can ask ourselves the reason for this gradualness. It can be answered that Jesus well knew how complicated things would be if the Apostles and the other disciples had begun to discuss the resurrection, for which they were not sufficiently prepared to understand, as is clear from the comment that the evangelist himself makes next: "They kept that order, and they wondered what it was about 'when he rose from the dead'" ( Mc9, 10). In addition, it can be said that the resurrection from the dead, still announced over and over again, was at the top of that kind of "messianic secret" that Jesus wanted to keep throughout the development of his life and his mission. , until the moment of the final fulfillment and revelation, which took place precisely with the "miracle of miracles", the Resurrection, which, according to Saint Paul, is the foundation of our faith (cf. 1 Cor 15, 12-19 ).

7. After the Resurrection, the Ascension and Pentecost, the "miracles-signs" performed by Christ are "prolonged" through the Apostles , and later, through the saints who succeed one another from generation to generation. The Acts of the Apostles offer us numerous testimonies of the miracles performed "in the name of Jesus Christ" by Peter (cf. Acts 3, 1-8; 5, 15; 9, 32-41), Stephen ( Act 6 , 8), of Paul (eg, Act 14, 8-10). The lives of the saints, the history of the Church, and, in particular, the processes practiced for the causes of canonization of the Servants of God, constitute a documentation that, subjected to the examination, even the most severe, of historical criticism and of medical science,confirms the existence of the "Power from above" that works in the order of nature and surpasses it. These are miraculous "signs" performed from the time of the Apostles until today, whose essential purpose is to show man's destiny and vocation to the kingdom of God. Thus, through such "signs", the truth of the Gospel is confirmed at different times and in the most diverse circumstances and the salvific power of Christ is demonstrated , who never ceases to call men (through the Church) to the path of faith. . This salvific power of the God-Man is also manifested when the "miracles-signs" are performed through the intercession of men., of the saints, of the devotees, just as the first "sign" in Cana of Galilee was made through the intercession of the Mother of Christ.

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