Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Natural World Is Super Enough

Last week, subscribers received a link that failed to work! I substituted a better one for Teresa of Avila’s quote.

Pope Francis recognized a second miracle associated with Mother Teresa, meaning she will soon be canonized as a saint.

When I visited her home for the dying in Calcutta, a woman in front of me whined contemptuously to a companion, “Do you think Mother Teresa is a saint?” I held my peace, as this woman had been antagonistic during most of our Fordham University religious studies tour of India, severely testing my contemplative reading about non-violence during the trip, selected writings of Gandhi.

To me, Mother Teresa’s whole life was a miracle, far surpassing any unexplained healings from those who pray for her intercession.

Miracles do not convince me. What Mother Teresa did “naturally” is enough.

I’ve been reading through Matthew lately and I love Jesus’ teachings, but am put off by the many miracle stories recorded in the gospel. I believe Jesus was a healer in a larger sense, bringing spiritual healing to individuals, neighborhoods, even rivals. But I can’t fathom the “unnatural” and, in my mind, unlikely restorations of sight, hearing, and speech.

I eventually stopped reading Autobiography of a Yogi by one of my spiritual heroes, Paramahansa Yogananda, when I became overwhelmed by the increasingly magical elements of his self-reporting, though I learned in a recent documentary about his life that the book was the only one Steve Jobs had on his iPad.

I feel pretty much the same way about Jesus’ miracle stories. For a long time I’ve interpreted these metaphorically, or considered them a retrospective hagiographical portrait of Jesus painted by his early followers.  “No signs shall be given this generation,” Jesus was believed to have said, but he ironically delivered many signs and wonders, according to the Gospels.

Personally I don’t feel a spiritual need for the supernatural; the natural world is super enough! That’s one of the things we learn from the great mystics, our spiritual poets, as well as scientists.

The natural world seems so miraculous, from infinitesimal neutrinos and organisms to galaxies far, far away (homage to the Star Wars’ fresh release, wink-wink) in space and time, one shouldn’t need an interruption or intervention of the natural order to believe in a Higher Power—why, it’s as plain as the nose on your face and the brain in your head and the heart of your compassion.

Even if there are dimensions of reality as yet unrecognized by our limited perceptions, that doesn’t make them magical or supernatural, just unperceived. I for one am hoping against hope that death is but an entrance into another dimension of existence. If not, the life I’ve been given is miracle enough.

Over the Christmas holidays, watching again several versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, I realized that Scrooge’s resurrection is the most accessible and believable miracle that the birth of Jesus invites. Scrooge becomes downright giddy and playful, gracious and generous, embracing life and others and causes with gusto.

“God brought you to life with Christ,” Saint Paul wrote the church at Ephesus. Contemplating this long ago, I realized how true this was for me. And it’s taken a lifetime to get used to it.

Jesus has given me a life. You too.

A reading for Christmastide: The Soul Feels Its Worth

My personal pick for “the” Moment of the Year 2015.

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Copyright © 2015 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.  

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