Offering a keynote presentation on the healing ministry of Jesus during the diocese’s annual Catholic Charismatic Day of Renewal, Bishop Ronald Gainer told those gathered to look at miracles not as stained-glass windows to be admired, but rather as transparent glass through which to see the compassion of the Father.
“Everything about Jesus – all of his teaching, all of his actions – is part of his healing ministry,” the bishop said, “because the Father so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son into the world, incarnate in our flesh, to take upon himself our sins and our infirmities, and to allow them to crush him to the point of death on a cross; and then, on the third day, to conquer our sins and our infirmities through the glory of his paschal mystery, the Easter mystery of the Resurrection.”
Offering reflections on the healing miracles of Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels, Bishop Gainer called upon those at the Day of Renewal to consider this image: “When you stand before stained-glass windows, you behold the work of art and stand in amazement of the intricacy and the artistry. The healing miracles of Jesus are not like beautiful stained-glass windows. They are to be like transparent windows, through which we are supposed to see something else: the compassion and mercy of God.”
Catholic Charismatic Renewal is a powerful expression of the stirring of the Fire of the Holy Spirit, and calls attention to the work of the Holy Spirit, who gives gifts for the purpose of edifying and building up the Church
Catholic Charismatic Renewal is an ecclesial movement – those groups and associations that work to spread the Good News and usher in the New Evangelization.
In the Diocese of Harrisburg, those who are part of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal gather regularly for prayer groups, seminars, Masses with prayers for healing, and annual retreats and days of renewal.
This year’s Day of Renewal was held Sept. 17 at the Cardinal Keeler Center in Harrisburg, and, along with the keynote address by Bishop Gainer, included Mass celebrated by him and concelebrant Father Francis Karwacki, Liaison for the Diocesan Catholic Charismatic Renewal; a presentation on healing and forgiveness by Alberta Turcio, who serves with her husband as a full-time prayer group leader and music minister in Lititz; as well as praise and worship, and prayers for healing.
In his keynote address, Bishop Gainer pointed out that the 34 miracles of Jesus in the Gospels fall into four categories: the healing miracles, in which Jesus repairs a human infirmity, such as leprosy or blindness; the exorcism miracles, where Jesus expels a demon oppressing a person; the resuscitation miracles, where Jesus brings a dead person back to life; and the nature miracles, where Jesus expresses his power over creation to walk on water, multiply loaves and fishes, and change water into wine.
“The four Gospels give testimony that Jesus’ actions in his years of public life were just as important as his words,” Bishop Gainer said. “His teaching and his preaching, his controversial words were in conflict with those who were opposed to him, and his actions are just as important as his words.”
The bishop explained that the four evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – see the miracles from different perspectives, based on the communities for which they are writing the Gospels.
For example, Matthew, writing for Jewish converts to Christianity, highlights the miracles to show Jesus’ divine healing power in order to illustrate the presence of the reign of God.
Mark, writing for a Roman audience, puts the miracles in the context of a battle, with Jesus showing the power of the Kingdom of God over Satan.
Luke’s Gospel is known as the Gospel of Mercy, and the healing miracles written here are signs of God’s mercy and compassion. He wrote for Greek converts from paganism and demonstrated God’s plan of salvation.
John, writing for a Christian audience later than the authors of the synoptic Gospels, does not use the same word for “miracle” as the others do. Instead, he uses the word for “sign,” to show that Jesus performed the signs necessary to demonstrate that he was the Son of God.
“When the people in the Gospels – especially John’s – see Our Lord’s miracles, they think to themselves, ‘How did he do that,’ almost as if they’re watching a magician,” the bishop related. “But the real question to ask about all the miracles is, ‘Who alone could do that? That’s the question that Jesus begs the people to ask him. ‘Who could change water into wine? Who could bring back the dead? Who could give sight to someone who was born without it?’”
The bishop, as an example, pointed to Jesus’ words after the miracle of the loaves and the fishes: “You seek me not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the bread.”
“The real miracle is the revelation of the divine power of Jesus over creation,” Bishop Gainer expressed. “But they didn’t see that. They just saw the surface – more bread, more fish. It was a stained-glass window for them. They had to see through it towards the true miracle, which is that the Son of God has come in our flesh.”
Jesus’ healing ministry continues after his Ascension into Heaven, through the ministry of the apostles and throughout the history of the Church, even through today, Bishop Gainer pointed out.
“He gave assurance at the table of the Last Supper that although he was leaving, he would not be absent, and that his healing power would not be taken back with him to Heaven, but that it would continue through and in the believing community,” he said.
“The ministry of healing is still at work in our Church,” the bishop said, pointing to the prayers of the Church for the recovery of the sick and afflicted, and patron saints whose intercession we seek for healing from certain conditions.
“Every miracle is a miracle of mercy. It is the window through which we must see the compassion and the mercy of God,” Bishop Gainer said.
“If we understand Jesus’ miracles in the context of the Kingdom, then I hope that would open our eyes to recognize the miracles of ordinary, everyday life,” he said.
The bishop concluded with a quote from St. Leo the Great (400-461), speaking about the life of the Church:
What was visible in Our Savior has passed over for us in his mysteries. The extraordinary manifestations of God’s power, mercy and goodness in Jesus’ ministry make us sensitive to the ordinary manifestations of God’s power and goodness in our own lives.
(For information about Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Diocese of Harrisburg, visit http://www.aliveinthespirit.net/home.html or contact Father Francis Karwacki, diocesan liaison, at 570-339-1031.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness