When I was in high school in Chicago I took the elevated train every morning with one of my classmates. This girl, who was a friend of mine, had speech difficulty. Born with a cleft palate, her speech was somewhat guttural and difficult to understand. For most of us who knew her this posed no problem, but while she was growing up there had been those who had teased and made fun of her. Consequently, she was somewhat shy.
Years later, while attending a breakfast meeting in downtown Chicago, I found myself sitting across from an attractive woman of about my age. As we talked over coffee she told me that she was in marketing and had started her own business a few years earlier.
Somehow, we got around to talking about where we had gone to school and I was surprised and delighted to find out that the shy teenager I had known in high school had grown into this gracious and confident woman. Doctors had been able to correct the defect and speech therapy had enabled her to overcome her shyness. It truly seemed like a miracle.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “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 healed my friend 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. The surgery was routine, and the therapy was what is usually indicated for this condition.
“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 my friend’s surgeons.
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 longtime pastoral minister in the Diocese of Green Bay.