In 2008, Sr. Bernadette Moriau made a pilgrimage to Lourdes, the Catholic shrine noted for the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Bernadette Soubirous and numerous miraculous healings. She had been wheelchair-bound and wore braces since 1980 due to a spinal condition. After attending a blessing for the sick, she felt a warmth and sense of well-being surge through her body. In response to a perceived command to stand up and remove her braces, she discovered her pain was gone and that she could walk. Follow-up investigation confirmed her complete healing, a result unexplained by medical science.1
Miracles by the Thousands
Miraculous healing is any physical, mental, or spiritual healing that cannot be explained by natural processes.
The Bible records numerous healings. Here are just a few of the miracles Jesus performed:
- A man’s skin condition (i.e., leprosy) resolves instantly (Mt. 8:1-4).
- A man who had been blind since birth fully recovers his sight (John 9).
- A man’s atrophied hand returns to its normal state (Mt. 12:9-13).
- A deaf man’s hearing and speech are immediately restored (Mk 7:31-37).
- A man who had been dead for four days is brought back to life and is fully functional (John11:1-44).
- Jesus rises from the dead on the third day after being cruelly beaten, crucified, and pierced with a lance (described in all four Gospels).
The Church and secular historians have recorded other miraculous healings. Here are a few examples:2
- A boy who was deaf, dumb, and disabled was immediately restored to health on command by St. Elizabeth of Hungary.
- A man’s severe depression and suicidality suddenly resolve, and he becomes full of hope after the Venerable Solanus Casey prays for him, even though he and Fr. Casey never met.
- A man who was bedfast and ill with the bubonic plague is immediately restored to health on command by St. Catherine of Siena.
- A dead six-month-old baby returns to life with Fr. Padre Pio’s intercession.
Science and Miracles
So how do we explain all of this?
Many “scientists” refuse to accept any supernatural explanation for miracles. Theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, asserts there are no miracles. Rather, he claims that what appears to be miraculous is due to the operation of some physical law that science has not yet identified. This conclusion comes as a clear departure from the realm of science. If there were alternative natural laws, they should have the following qualities:
1) We observe a relationship between two or more things in the natural world.
We call events miracles because, by definition, there is no observed natural relationship. On the other hand, we do see links between prayer, faith, and miraculous healing.
2) The observed relationship is reproducible.
When particular natural conditions are met, we expect physical laws to lead to a result that is reproducible. Miraculous healings lack this repeatability because they don’t occur as the result of a fixed relationship, but rather through the action of a supernatural person whom we do not control.
3) We would not expect a natural law to violate other natural laws.
This happens with miracles all the time. You’ll find numerous violations of a variety of natural laws in the miracles listed above.
Why, then, would it be irrelevant to Dr. Hawking that there is NO evidence to support his claim? It appears that having assumed a position that God does not exist, he feels free to discount anything that does not fit his bias. This, of course, has nothing to do with science, which is based on observation and not wishful thinking.
Historical Evidence in Support of the Gospels
Some people deny Jesus’ miracles because they reject the authenticity of the Gospels. This assertion shows either ignorance of the historical evidence for the Gospels or a prejudice against their content. Consider the following evidence:
Authenticity of documents. We have evidence, more than with any other ancient document, that the Gospels we have today are the same (with < 1% error) as the original autographs. This counters the claim Jesus’ followers falsified or altered copies of the originals.
Eyewitness accounts and verification. Eyewitnesses wrote two of the Gospels. More than five hundred people saw the risen Christ (I Cor. 15:6-8) Those who witnessed the Gospel events were still living when the Gospels were written and had the opportunity to denounce errors. Instead, future authors confirmed its content.
Correlation with independent sources. Details of the Gospels correlate with other available historical sources, including non-Christian testimony (e.g., Josephus, Tacitus) and archaeological findings.
Characteristics of the content support their authenticity. Multiple sources present the same accounts. The small differences one finds between the Gospels are the kinds of variations we could expect from different sources, as opposed to a homogeneous account written by someone trying to create a fictional narrative. A manufactured account would not include the kinds of embarrassing details we find in the Gospels.
The behavior of Jesus’ followers is otherwise unexplainable. For example, why would the zealous persecutor of Christians, Saul, overnight become one of its staunchest apostles (Paul)? Why would countless disciples subject themselves to brutal torture and execution for a made-up story?
While these reasons do not present an air-tight defense for the veracity of the Gospels, they show it’s reasonable to believe in their authenticity and content. At the same time, opposing evidence is lacking.
In the End, One Must Conclude…
Miracles happen, and they continue to happen. All available evidence points to God, through the action of the Holy Spirit, as the author of miraculous healing.
1 See “It’s a Miracle: Lourdes Healing Officially Called a Miracle,” EWTN News, Accessed February 13, 2018, URL: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/World.php?id=16980.
2 Ghezzi, Bert. Mystics and Miracles: True Stories of Lives Touched by God. Chicago: Loyola Press. 2002.
3 Featured image by Washington Allston (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons.