A few weeks ago I saw an amazing thing on the evening news. It was the story of a young army medic in Afghanistan who, when his unit came under fire, was shot running to one of his fellow soldiers who had been hit. The bullet left him paralyzed from the neck down. What was amazing was the story of how this young man fought his way back. Told that he would need total care for the rest of his life, thanks to the efforts of a medical team specifically trained to help our service men and women wounded in action, he is now able to walk.
“Thus says the Lord: Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not … then will the lame leap like a stag …” Certainly this young soldier was frightened, but even in the face of a devastating prognosis he was strong. Viewers saw a man working incredibly hard with a team of caregivers who believed that he would walk again. The news story didn’t mention his faith or the faith of the team of people who worked with him, but it certainly did report the almost miraculous outcome of their works.
In another place we hear Jesus say, “that person who has faith in me will do the works I do and greater far than these.” I doubt that the surgeons and therapists who treated that young man thought of what they were doing as “miraculous.” They were just human beings doing their job, nothing out of the ordinary, all in a day’s work.
“People brought … a … man who had a speech impediment …” Jesus’ actions were also quite ordinary. It was a human hand that reached out and touched the man, human spittle that healed him. But Jesus knew that God worked through his hands, as I believe God worked through the hands of that young soldier’s surgeons and therapists. In fact, I believe that all the work we do bears God’s fingerprints. And Jesus promised that this would be so. Do we believe what he told us? Do we recognize the miraculous in the ordinary work of our human hands?
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.