Don’t get burned

Pope Pius XIIOne of the least attractive features of our faith is that the faithful are far too ready to surrender to superstitions. To want to see miracles, the very hand of God, not in the glories of His created universe, but in special events that appear, well, miraculous.

Into the “face of Jesus in the taco” realm comes now the late Pope John Paul II, cast in flames. Is it possible that JPII has begun making post-mortem house calls? One must suppose that, if God were to will it so, it would be so. But one has to ask, “for what end would God show us an image in flame of one of his saints?”

God has, among His other attributes, seen fit to endow us with reason. Reason which must work hand in hand with our faith. Those who want to see miracles in random flames (or, one must allow, in photo-shopped flames) will do so. What does any of this have to do with our faith, which is not in John Paul II, however saintly he was?

Nothing. If you need these signs and wonders to sustain your faith, how weak, indeed, must that faith be. But, you say, didn’t our Lord perform many signs and wonders? Well, yes, but he was fully God, and Jesus himself has told us that he’s not about working miracles. From Matthew 12:

38…”Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Which is to say, the miracle of Jesus Passion, death on the cross, and resurrection on the third day to glory.

The late Pope seen in outline in flames? To proclaim this as a miracle from God is to proclaim that your faith needs to be rekindled with the basics: Jesus incarnate; Jesus’ atoning death; Jesus resurrection. The rest is just window dressing; training wheels for those who can’t ride.

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