“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’” — Jn 4:48
“I’m really nervous about this event,” I shared with a priest friend at a recent meeting. “Will you please pray for me?” I asked him. The event was an important one. On behalf of the Catholic Media Association, I was facilitating a panel discussion on the theme of “communication during a time of division” with Cardinal Luis Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and two members of the Vatican’s communications team. Although I had prepared well, my nervousness was resulting in a shaky voice, sweaty hands and a nervous tummy.
This wise and gentle priest smiled and promised that he would pray for me. Then he added, “I’ll ask my mum to have a word with your mum so that both of them can intercede for you.”
I was incredibly touched by his thoughtfulness. Some years ago, I lost my mother at the age of 54 to cancer and, occasionally, the raw edge of grief still wells up in my heart and takes my breath away. This often happens at the most unexpected moments, like when I see orange flowers and am reminded that my mother would refer to them as “tequila sunrise flowers.” Or when I hear a Dolly Parton song and remember my mother singing to her cassette tape in our kitchen as she cooked for us.
My priest friend also knows the pain of losing his mother and reminded me that he receives little assurances of her loving presence regularly. I left the room comforted by the thought that our mothers were praying together and would intercede for this conversation.
As I was making my way across the parking lot to my office, suddenly, two very large dragonflies flew right across my path. Their transparent iridescent wings were shot through with flashes of teal and silver and their beauty stopped me in my tracks. I could hardly believe it. You see, dragonflies have always been very special to my mother. She kept a dragonfly window cling on our kitchen door and, on the day she was lowered into her final resting place, her grandchildren threw little wooden dragonfly figures into her grave.
Suddenly I found myself crying, standing in the parking lot, and offered my tears up in gratitude for the Lord’s goodness. In the midst of the fervent preparation for this event, God had sent not one, but two reminders of his loving presence. Two mothers were praying for me and all would be well. And indeed it was.
Since the dawn of time, God has always demonstrated his love for us through signs and wonders. God is speaking all the time if we have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart that feels his presence.
In the Book of Genesis, the darkness of the abyss gives way to the light of teeming life. In the Book of Exodus, God reminds his chosen people of his faithfulness and devotion as the natural order of the world gives way to the supernatural. Where the Holy Spirit goes, signs and wonders are present. In the Acts of the Apostles, people are invited to stretch out their hands “to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” Shortly after this, the apostles went away to pray “and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 4:31).
We might mistakenly believe that such signs and wonders happened in the past and do not happen for us today. But they do. The same God who revealed his power in the burning bush and through the healing power of Jesus Christ is the same God who speaks to us today, just as he did in the Old and New Testament.
It may be a penny from heaven that you find in the most unexpected place, or the ruby red cardinal that flies by your window or two dragonflies that happen to fly past a rushing woman on her way to a meeting that remind us that God is real and is with us.
God is speaking in these signs and wonders, reminding us that he is present to us always. How is he speaking to you today?
Stanz is director of parish life and evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay and author of “Start with Jesus: How Everyday Disciples Will Renew the Church” (Loyola Press).