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Miracles manifest the supernatural order

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 13 January 1988 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Speaking of the miracles which Jesus performed during his earthly ministry, St. Augustine, in an interesting text, interprets them as signs of God's saving power and love and as incentives to raise our minds to the kingdom of heavenly things.

"The miracles worked by our Lord Jesus Christ," St. Augustine writes, "are divine works which raise the human mind above visible things to understand what is divine" (In Io. Ev. Tr., 24, 1,).

2. Connected with this thought is the reaffirmation of the close link of Jesus' "miracles-signs" with the call to faith. These miracles demonstrate the existence of the supernatural order, which is the object of faith. Those who observed them and particularly those who experienced them were made aware as if by the touch of a hand that the natural order does not exhaust the whole of reality. The universe in which we live is not limited merely to the range of things accessible to the senses and even to the intellect itself conditioned by sense knowledge. The miracle is a sign that this order is surpassed by the "power from on high," and is therefore also subject to it. This "power from on high" (cf. Lk 24:49), namely, God himself, is above the entire natural order. It directs this order and at the same time it makes known that—through this order and superior to it—human destiny is the kingdom of God. Christ's miracles are signs of this Kingdom.

3. Miracles are not opposed to the forces and laws of nature. They merely imply a certain empirical suspension of their ordinary function and not their annulment. Indeed, the miracles described in the Gospel indicate the existence of a Power superior to the forces and laws of nature, but which at the same time operates according to the demands of nature itself, even though surpassing its actual normal capacity. Is not this what happens, for example, in every miraculous cure? The potentiality of the forces of nature is actuated by divine intervention which extends this potential beyond the sphere of its normal capacity of action. This does not annul or frustrate the causality which God has communicated to created things, nor does it violate the natural laws established by God himself and inscribed in the structure of creation. But it exalts and in a certain way ennobles the capacity to operate or even to receive the effects of the operation of another, as happens precisely in the cures described by the Gospel.

4. The truth about creation is the first and fundamental truth of our faith. It is not, however, the only one nor the supreme one. Faith teaches us that the work of creation is contained within the ambit of God's plan which, according to his intention, goes well beyond the limits of creation itself. Creation—particularly the human creature called into existence in the visible world—is open to an eternal destiny, which is fully revealed in Jesus Christ. Even in Christ the work of creation is completed by the work of salvation. Salvation means a new creation (cf. 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15), a creation according to the measure of the Creator's original design. Salvation means a re-establishment of what God had made and which in human history had suffered the disorder and "corruption" following upon sin.

Christ's miracles enter into the project of the "new creation" and are therefore linked to the order of salvation. They are the salvific signs which call to conversion and to faith, and in this way, to the renewal of the world that is subject to "corruption" (cf. Rom 8:19-21). Therefore they do not stop at the ontological order of creation (creatio), which indeed they touch and set right, but they enter into the soteriological order of the new creation (re-creatio totius universi), of which they are the factors and to which they bear witness as "signs."

5. The soteriological order is rooted in the Incarnation. The "miracles-signs" of which the Gospels speak also have their foundation in the same reality of the God-Man. This reality-mystery embraces and surpasses all the miraculous happenings connected with Christ's messianic mission. It may be said that the Incarnation is the "miracle of miracles," the radical and permanent "miracle" of the new order of creation. God's entrance into the dimension of creation is effected in the reality of the Incarnation in a unique way. To the eyes of faith it becomes a sign incomparably superior to all the other miraculous signs of the divine presence and action in the world. All these other signs are rooted in the reality of the Incarnation; they radiate its power of attraction and bear witness to it. They repeat to believers what is written by the evangelist John at the end of the prologue on the Incarnation, "We saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14).

6. The Incarnation is the fundamental sign to which are linked all the signs bearing witness to the disciples and to humanity that "the kingdom of God has come" (cf. Lk 11:20). Still, there is an ultimate and definitive sign, to which Jesus alluded when quoting the prophet Jonah: "Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights" (Mt 12:40). It is the sign of the resurrection.

Jesus prepared the apostles for this definitive sign, but he did so gradually and tactfully, recommending them to be discreet "until a certain time." There is a particularly clear reference after the transfiguration on the mountain: "As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead" (Mk 9:9). One may ask the reason for this gradualness. To this one may reply that Jesus well knew how complicated the situation might become if the apostles and the other disciples had begun to discuss the resurrection. They were not yet sufficiently prepared to understand it, as appears from the comment of the evangelist himself in regard to the recommendation just quoted: "They kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant" (Mk 9:10). Besides, it can be said that the resurrection from the dead, although enunciated and announced, was at the summit of the messianic secret. Jesus wished to maintain secrecy throughout the entire course of his life and mission, until the moment of the final fulfillment and revelation which were verified precisely with the "miracle of miracles," the resurrection, which, according to St. Paul, is the foundation of our faith (cf. 1 Cor 15:12-19).

7. After the resurrection, ascension and pentecost, the "miracles-signs" performed by Christ were continued by the apostles, and later by the saints from generation to generation. The Acts of the Apostles offer us numerous testimonies concerning miracles worked "in the name of Jesus Christ" by Peter (cf. Acts 3:1-8; 5:15; 9:32-41), Stephen (Acts 6:8) and Paul (e.g., Acts 14:8-10). We also see it in the lives of the saints, the history of the Church and in particular, the processes for the canonization of the Servants of God. These constitute a documentation which, when submitted to the most searching examination of historical criticism and of medical science, confirms the existence of the "power from on high" which operates in the natural order and surpasses it. It is a question of miraculous signs carried out from apostolic times until the present day. Their essential purpose is to indicate that the human person is destined and called to the kingdom of God. These signs therefore confirm in different ages and in the most varied circumstances the truth of the Gospel, and demonstrate the saving power of Christ who does not cease to call people (through the Church) on the path of faith. This saving power of the God-Man is manifested also when the "miracles-signs" are performed through the intercession of individuals, of saints, of devout people—just as the first sign at Cana of Galilee was worked through the intercession of the mother of Christ.


After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di lingua francese 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Je salue cordialement les personnes de langue française présentes à cette audience, en particulier le groupe de prêtres du diocèse d’Angers qui célèbrent le XIème anniversaire de leur ordination sacerdotale et à qui je renouvelle mes vœux ferventes. 

* * * 

Je salue également les nombreux participants au XXVIIème congrès international de l’“Union Foraine Européenne”. Chers Frères et Sœurs du monde du spectacle, laissez-moi vous exprimer mon estime pour votre travail, exigeant par les efforts et la maîtrise de soi qu’il requiert. Puissez-vous apporter par votre art, vos qualités professionnelles et votre sens de la dignité humaine, une saine détente à beaucoup de nos contemporains! Je prie Dieu de vous bénir ainsi que toutes vos familles.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer very cordial greetings to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially those coming from Ireland, Sweden and the United States. May you grow each day in the love of our Saviour. May he fill your hearts with abiding peace.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Das wünsche ich auch allen Besuchern deutscher Sprache, darunter heute die Schwestern, die in La Storta an einer gemeinsamen Vertiefung ihrer Berufung als Christen und Ordensfrauen teilnehmen. Euch allen schenke Gott seinen reichen Segen an allen Tagen dieses soeben begonnenen Jahres unseres Heils 1988. Gelobt sei Jesus Christus! 

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Me es grato presentar ahora mi más cordial saludo a todos los peregrinos y visitante de lengua española.

En particular, saludo a los representantes del Movimiento de apostolado “Regnum Christi” y al grupo de Religiosas de San José de Gerona. Como almas particularmente consagradas a Dios, os aliento a una entrega generosa y sin límites a vuestra vocación y tarea apostólica, haciendo de vuestras vidas un testimonio de la perenne juventud del Evangelio.

Saludo igualmente a la delegación deportiva del Colegio “Cardenal Newman”, de Buenos Aires.

A todas las personas, familias y grupos procedentes de los diversos países de América Latina y de España, imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica. 

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese 

Caríssimos Irmãos e Irmãs de língua portuguesa,

E agora quero saudar um grupo de Sacerdotes, vindos do Brasil, que estão presentes nesta Audiência. Caríssimos Irmãos: faço votos que a peregrinação junto ao túmulo de São Pedro e de São Paulo contribua a reavivar a vossa fé, bem como os compromissos assumidos com a Ordenação sacerdotal. A vós e às pessoas que vos são queridas, dou-vos de coração a minha Bênção. 

Ai diversi gruppi di pellegrini polacchi 

Pozdrawiam wszystkich pielgrzymów polskich zarówno z kraju, jak i z emigracji, jako też uczestników, grup turystycznych. . . . Zyczę wszystkim na początku nowego roku błogosławieństwa i łaski Chrystusa, Pana naszego i Zbawiciela.

A gruppi di lingua italiana 

Rivolgo ora una speciale parola di benvenuto alle religiose, ai sacerdoti ed alle associate laiche della Famiglia spirituale voluta da santa Maria Giuseppa Rossello, la quale festeggia il centocinquantesimo anniversario della sua esistenza. Il pellegrinaggio è accompagnato, oltre che dalla Madre generale, da monsignor Giulio Sanguineti, Vescovo di Savona, dove l’Istituto ha la sua Casa Generalizia: a tutti il mio cordiale saluto.

Cari fratelli e sorelle della “Famiglia Madre Rossello”, vi ringrazio per la vostra presenza e gioisco con voi per la bella ricorrenza che state festeggiando: mi congratulo di cuore per tutte le vostre attività benefiche nel campo della pastorale educativa, sanitaria e familiare: tre settori fondamentali della vita della società e della Chiesa, tre campi nei quali le urgenze sono grandissime e per i quali è proprio il caso di dire che “la messe è molta, ma gli operai sono pochi” (Mt 9, 37). Dedicandovi generosamente a queste opere di carità e di solidarietà umana, voi avete mille occasioni per render credibile la vostra testimonianza cristiana e per condurre molte anime a Dio, sulle orme della madre fondatrice, che diceva: “Vorrei avere le braccia tanto lunghe, da abbracciare tutto il mondo per fare a tutti del bene”.

Auspico per tutta la vostra Famiglia una crescita sempre più rigogliosa, nella fedeltà al carisma della fondatrice e nella piena osservanza delle costituzioni, con un animo sempre aperto alle iniziative dello spirito ed un profondo senso della comunione ecclesiale. Possiate voi essere le “lunghe braccia” della madre Rossello! Dio vi mandi sempre nuove e sante vocazioni per far fronte agli immensi bisogni del nostro tempo. Sotto il segno della Vergine santissima, vi benedico tutti di cuore, insieme con i vostri collaboratori e tutti i vostri assistiti ed amici.

Un particolare saluto anche ai dirigenti regionali della Federazione Calcio dell’Emilia Romagna, che hanno voluto essere presenti all’odierna udienza.

Nell’augurare al vostro impegno di animazione sportiva, cari signori, risultati confortanti, esorto ciascuno di voi ad adoperarsi perché l’attività agonistica sappia sempre ispirarsi a quei valori ideali, che la rendono nobile e bella.

Con la mia Benedizione. 

Ai giovani 

Rivolgo ora un cordiale saluto ai giovani presenti.

Siamo agli inizi di un nuovo anno, ed ancora ci si scambiano in questi giorni gli auguri per un anno migliore. Ebbene carissimi, in nessuna età della vita, quanto nella vostra, il desiderio di progettare bene il futuro e, di conseguenza, il valore che per questo ha la saggia utilizzazione del tempo, si fa sentire con altrettanta intensità. Assecondate tale benefica spinta interiore, dirigendola nella prospettiva che il Verbo fatto carne ci ha aperto offrendoci la possibilità di essere, in Lui, creature nuove e veri figli della luce. Vi accompagni propizia la mia Benedizione. 

Agli ammalati 

Anche a voi, carissimi ammalati, il mio affettuoso saluto.

La sofferenza, della quale al presente state sperimentando il peso, è certamente una prova. Ma la sopportazione cristiana di essa è uno dei metri più sicuri con cui valutare la sincerità e l’intensità della propria fede, nonché offrire incoraggiamento a coloro che, trovandosi nelle medesime condizioni, non riescono sempre ad accettare il loro stato. Questa testimonianza dell’esempio è un dono del Signore che vi indica a quali possibilità di apostolato Egli vi chiami. In ciò sta anche il vostro merito, che Egli valorizza per la santificazione vostra e di tanti fratelli, maggiormente bisognosi di misericordia e di perdono. Vi sia di conforto nei momenti più difficili la Benedizione, che volentieri vi impatto. 

Agli sposi novelli 

Agli sposi novelli un augurio di cuore.

Carissimi sposi, le recenti feste natalizie, la cui eco è ancor viva nei nostri animi, hanno messo al centro della nostra attenzione l’amore di Dio per il mondo e la Santa Famiglia di Nazareth. Si tratta di un unico grande mistero che ci insegna come Dio, nel dimostrare la sua benevolenza per gli uomini, ha voluto servirsi di una comunità di amore, che Egli stesso ci ha offerto come modello esemplare in Maria, Giuseppe e Gesù. Anche voi, ora che formate una coppia cristiana, siete chiamati a riproporre i valori specifici di tale modello. Ciò sarà possibile se, accettando sempre il primato di Dio nella vostra vita, compirete ogni scelta alla sua luce. La forza e la serenità, che permisero alla Santa Famiglia di superare tante prove e di rimanere fedele ai compiti che le erano stati assegnati, saranno il vostro sostegno. Nel rinnovarvi i miei auguri, vi benedico di cuore.

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