Does Jesus still heal and perform miracles today?
As a child of eight, I remember sitting with my mother watching an appeal on TV that was asking donations for the poor and starving children of Africa. I felt an ache and an almost magnetic pull towards one young boy of a similar age who was shown crying. I felt his eyes burn into mine as a fly landed on his lip and he did not even notice. At the same time, an overwhelming wave of love and sadness swept over me.
I was watching people who were dying from lack of food while I sat comfortably just metres away from a full refrigerator. I could not make sense of the injustice and wondered what I could do. When I asked my mother how I could help, she said we could send money, but I felt compelled to do something personally, directly. That feeling echoed in my heart at various times of my life, but I never really knew what doing something more direct and personal could be. I grew up believing I had a calling in my life, that I existed to bring about change, and that I was born to love, serve and help others. But life always seemed to get in the way of acting on those convictions.
In 2013 I spent time in an English prison. It was there that I encountered the risen Lord in the most life–changing experience of my life. Space does not permit me to elaborate (Refer my bio credited at the end of the article to get the link to the Shalom World TV program “Jesus My Savior” episode where I tell that part of my story), but after that encounter I surrendered my life to him and have been on a most incredible journey ever since.
In 2015, when I met an American religious brother who worked with the poor in Calcutta, India, I finally recognized my opportunity to serve among the poor. Within months I was on a plane headed to India to volunteer with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.
As soon as I landed, I looked at the night sky and felt God’s presence. When I sat back in the taxi I immediately thought, ‘I’m home’. Yet here I was in a place I had never been before. When I began my volunteer work, I understood why I felt at home: Home is where the heart is.
I encountered Jesus countless times in the poor and beautiful people of India. Mother Teresa said the Gospel can be described on 5 fingers: ‘you… did… it… to… me’ (Matthew 25:40), and in the poor I regularly saw the eyes of Jesus. From the moment I woke up and prayed each morning to the moment my head hit the pillow at night, I experienced love. Each night before bed I sat on the roof terrace writing in my journal until the very early hours. People wondered how I kept going, why I did not collapse in a heap. There is only one explanation—the fire in my Heart which is The Holy Spirit.
They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. I often connect with people through the eyes. I connected this way with a disabled young man I cared for who each day invited me to play cards with him. Since he was both mute and lacked the use of his arms and legs, he would point to which cards he wanted me to turn. As the days passed, we communicated more and more even though no words came from his mouth. We communicated through the eyes in the universal language of love.
One day, he asked me to wheel him inside the house and led me to a floor-to-ceiling image of The Divine Mercy. I asked if he loved Jesus and he smiled and nodded. We went into the chapel and as I wheeled him close to the tabernacle, he threw himself out of the wheelchair, face down. Thinking he had fallen I went to help him, but he pushed me away and performed one of the most beautiful acts of worship I have ever witnessed. Using all his strength he pushed himself up onto his knees. I knelt next to him with tears in my eyes. As I led the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be he made noises matching my words perfectly in rhythm and tone. From birth this man had been dealt a life of suffering, rejection, and isolation. His body was crippled, yet he knelt praying and giving thanks to God, radiating light and teaching me how prayer should be done.
Another day, he showed me all his earthly possessions. He opened a small shoe box that contained photographs which he was eager to show me. The photographs were of him when the Missionaries of Charity Brothers first found him and brought him into their home. Another was of his Baptism, one of his First Holy Communion, and another of his Confirmation. He loved showing the photos and I loved seeing them and seeing the pleasure he took in showing them to me.
When the time came for me to return home, I was in floods of tears and found it almost impossible to say goodbye to my new friend. We were next to his bed when he pointed to his pillow. I didn’t understand, but another resident, a child with Down’s syndrome, lifted my friend’s pillow and revealed a set of Rosary beads. My friend grabbed them the best he could with his crippled hand and moved towards me to give them to me. Knowing how little he had, I told him I could not take them. He stared at me with his frowned eyebrows telling me I had to. Reluctantly I held out my hand and he dropped them into my palm. As soon as the Rosary touched me, I felt love go through my body. The Rosary was made from string and plastic, but it was more valuable than gold or precious stones. I kissed him and the Rosary and left absolutely staggered at how much God had blessed me through the beauty and love of this amazing human being. Like the widow in the gospel, he had given out of his extreme poverty.
On 4th September 2016, Mother Teresa was declared a Saint. I had the privilege of being in St Peter’s Square for the Canonisation Mass. Early on the morning after (September 5, her feast day), I decided to visit St John Lateran Basilica before my flight home to thank God for my experience and for Mother Teresa. Early in the morning, I entered the church and found it empty except for two nuns at the front who stood next to a first-class relic of Mother Teresa. I asked if I could touch my new Rosary beads to the relic whilst I prayed. I explained who gave them to me and then thanked her for saying yes.
She returned the Rosary with a holy card of Mother Teresa which read on the back: ‘All for Jesus through Mary’. As I kissed the Rosary, that phrase exploded in my heart. I had been asking Jesus to show me what was most pleasing to Him and this card provided an answer to my prayer. As I prayed in gratitude, I felt a tap on my shoulder. A lady wearing a surgical mask was looking directly into my eyes. “Whatever you are praying for,” she said, “do not be afraid. God is with you”. I immediately stood up and with love erupting from the very core of my being, I kissed the woman.
The woman told me she had cancer. “But the crazy thing is,” she said, “I can’t cure myself”. “That’s true,” I said, “you can’t heal yourself, but God can and for that to happen you must have faith.”
She replied that she had little faith. I told her that was fine because Jesus tells us we only need ‘faith the size of a Mustard seed’ to move mountains (Mark 11:22-25). “If we can move mountains,” I said, “then we can certainly move cancer.” I asked her to repeat with me ‘believe that you have received it and it will be yours.’ (Mark 11:24). As we parted, I gave her a Rosary from Medjugorje and we exchanged phone numbers. In the coming weeks I encouraged her, by email and text, to trust Jesus and continue claiming her healing.
A few weeks passed. One day, just as I was entering the church, she sent me a text asking for prayer before her hospital check-up. Her last exam showed the cancer had spread. As I prayed, I felt reassured by the warmth of the sun shining on me through the stained-glass window. It hardly felt surprising when she delightedly shared her good news. The doctors could not explain it!
Not only was she better, but the cancer had completely disappeared. Later, I remembered something about the moment she tapped me on the shoulder in Rome when I felt that strong urge to kiss her. Moments before that kiss, I had kissed the Rosary beads which had just touched the relic of Mother Teresa. When I explained this to her she was stunned and told me how Mother Teresa had asked her to join her community when they had met years before. Afraid to say yes to that call, the woman wound up marrying instead. But now, in this dramatic healing she was unexpectedly connected—through me, the Sisters in the Rome Basilica, the sacred relic—to the Holy woman whom she had met many years before.
Over and over, my life events have shown me that God answers prayer, that Jesus still heals, and that miracles still happen. We have the intercession of Saints and the power of the Rosary to help us. And that is enough to move mountains.
Dear Jesus, I love You above all things in this world. Help me to see you in those around me, especially my family, and to share the joy of loving You. I want to love You more and more each day. Amen.
Sean Booth is a Lay Missionary of Charity and has just begun studying a Bachelor of Divinity theology degree at Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England, UK. He shares his incredible encounter with Jesus through the Shalom World TV program “Jesus My Savior”. To watch the amazing story. visit: https://shalomworld.org/episode/a-prisoner-finds-jesus-seanbooth.
En route with the three Magi and be amazed! The Epiphany is a feast of light. We hear from the prophet Isaiah, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (Isaiah 60:1). We look to the actions of the Magi to guide our journey to the Lord Jesus, who is revealed as the light and salvation of the world. If we want to encounter Jesus too, we should pay attention to what the Magi did. What did they do? Three actions: they looked up to see the star; they realized what it meant and left their homes and activities to set out towards the light; and, they brought valuable gifts to worship Him. Look Up This is where the journey begins. Have you ever wondered why the Magi alone saw the star, and realized its significance? Perhaps few people were looking up to the heavens, because their gaze was focused on the ground with their own immediate concerns. I wonder how many of us look up to the sky? How many of us are like the Psalmist who says, “My soul looks for the Lord more than sentinels for daybreak...” (Psalms 130:6), or are we more like, “Hey, it’s enough that I have good health, a solid bank account and stock portfolio, access to a 5G network, and a little entertainment, especially on Sunday in which I can watch wall-to-wall football games!” Do we know how to long for God, to expect the freshness that he brings to life, or do we let ourselves be swept along by the frenetic pace of our lives? The Magi understood that to truly be alive, we need lofty goals—we need to dream big!—and we need to keep looking up. Get Going The second thing the Magi did, which is essential to finding Jesus, is to get up and begin the journey. When we stand before Jesus, we have a disconcerting either-or choice: is he Emmanuel, God among us, or is He not? If He is, then we have an obligation to give Him our total, uncompromised commitment so that our lives revolve around Him. Following His star is a decision to move towards Him and to advance steadfastly on the way He laid out for us. Although our journey is often two steps forward, one step backwards, the key is to keep our gaze on Jesus, pick ourselves up with His aid when we fall flat, and keep moving forward. However, we cannot do that without getting off our couches, detaching ourselves from our comfort and security, and setting out instead of standing still. Jesus makes demands: He says that we are either for Him or against Him. In the spiritual path, there are only two directions: we’re either moving towards God or away from Him. If we want to move towards Jesus, we have to overcome our fear of taking risks, our self-satisfaction, and our laziness. Put simply, we have to take risks, to let go of our self-referential lifestyle if we are going to find the Child. But, those risks are worth it because when we find the Child, we’ll discover His tenderness and love and rediscover our true identity. Bring Gifts At the end of their long journey, the Magi do as God does: they bestow gifts. God’s ultimate gift is His divine life, which He invites us to share for eternity. They offer what is most valuable for them: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts represent what St. John Paul II calls The Law of the Gift: we abide in an authentic relationship with God when we live how God operates with self-giving love. The best gift you can give to Jesus is your very life! Give freely, without reservations—don’t hold back, keeping something for yourself. Give without expecting anything in return—including the reward of Heaven! This is the truest sign that you have found Jesus in your life. For he says: “The gift you have received, give freely as a gift” (Matthew 10:8): to do good towards others without counting the cost, even when unasked, even when you get nothing in return, even when it is unpleasant. That is what God wants of you because that’s how God relates to us! Look at how God comes to us: as a Child—He became small for our sake. As we celebrate the Epiphany, let us look at our hands: are they empty of self-giving or are we offering the free gift of ourselves without expecting anything in return. And, let us ask Jesus: “Lord, send forth your Spirit that I may be renewed; that I may rediscover the joy of giving.”
Last week, I had the great good fortune to sit down for a Zoom interview with Jordan Peterson, Jonathan Pageau, and John Vervaeke. As I’m sure you know, Peterson, Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, is one of the most influential figures in the culture today. Pageau is an artist and iconographer working in the Orthodox Christian tradition, and Vervaeke is a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Toronto. All three of these gentlemen have a powerful presence on social media. The topic of our conversation was a theme that preoccupies all four of us—namely, the crisis of meaning in our culture, especially among the young. To kick things off, Peterson asked each of us to give our definition of meaning and, more specifically, of religious meaning. When my time came, I offered this: to live a meaningful life is to be in purposive relationship to value, and to live a religiously meaningful life is to be in purposive relationship to the summum bonum, or the supreme value. Following the prompts of Dietrich von Hildebrand, I argued that certain values—epistemic, moral, and aesthetic—appear in the world, and they draw us out of ourselves, calling us to honor them and to integrate them into our lives. So, mathematical and philosophical truths beguile the mind and set it on a journey of discovery; moral truths, on display in the saints and heroes of the tradition, stir the will into imitative action; and artistic beauty—a Cézanne still-life, a Beethoven sonata, Whitman’s Leaves of Grass—stops us in our tracks and compels us to wonder and, in turn, to create. To order one’s life in such a way that one consistently seeks such values is to have a properly meaningful life. Now, I continued, the perceptive soul intuits that there is a transcendent source of these values: a supreme or unconditioned goodness, truth, and beauty. The fully meaningful life is one that is dedicated, finally, to that reality. Thus, Plato said that the culminating point of the philosophical enterprise is discovering, beyond all particular goods, the “form of the good”; Aristotle said that the highest life consists in contemplating the prime mover; and the Bible speaks of loving the Lord our God with our whole soul, our whole mind, our whole strength. Jordan Peterson, echoing Thomas Aquinas, put it as follows: Every particular act of the will is predicated upon some value, some concrete good. But that value nests in a higher value or set of values, which in turn nests in a still higher one. We come, he said, eventually, to some supreme good that determines and orders all of the subordinate goods that we seek. Though we articulated the theme in different ways and according to our various areas of expertise, all four of us said that the “wisdom tradition,” which classically presented and defended these truths, has been largely occluded in the culture today, and this occlusion has contributed mightily to the crisis of meaning. Much has contributed to this problem, but we put emphasis especially on two causes: scientism and the postmodern suspicion of the very language of value. Scientism, the reduction of all legitimate knowledge to the scientific form of knowledge, effectively renders claims of value unserious, merely subjective, expressive of feeling but not of objective truth. Combined with this reductionism is the conviction, baked into the brains of so many young people today, that claims truth and value are simply disguised attempts to prop up the power of those who are making them or to sustain a corrupt institutional superstructure. Accordingly, these assertions have to be demythologized, dismantled, and deconstructed. And along with this cultural assault on the realm of values, we have witnessed the failure of many of the great institutions of the culture, including and especially the religious institutions, to present this realm in a convincing and compelling manner. Far too often, contemporary religion has turned into superficial political advocacy or a pandering echo of the prejudices of the environing culture. So, what do we need for a meaningful life? From my perspective, I said, we need great Catholic scholars, who understand our intellectual tradition thoroughly and who believe in it, are not ashamed of it—and who are ready to enter into respectful but critical conversation with secularity. We need great Catholic artists, who reverence Dante, Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Mozart, Hopkins, and Chesterton, and who are also on point to produce fresh works of art, imbued with the Catholic sensibility. And we need, above all, great Catholic saints, who show concretely what it looks like to live one’s life in purposive relation to the summum bonum. We can and should blame the culture of modernity for producing the desert of meaninglessness in which so many today wander, but we keepers of the religious flame ought to take responsibility too, acknowledging our failures and resolving to pick up our game. For people today will not enter into relationship with values and with the supreme value unless they can find mentors and masters to show them how. --------------------------- © ARTICLE originally appeared at wordonfire.org. Reprinted with permission.
Here’s a simple technique to stay focused on God’s plan for your life A few years ago, at a New Year’s Day Mass celebrating the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God, the priest encouraged us to ask the Blessed Mother for a “word” for the coming year. Maybe this would be a special grace that she wanted to give us, or a re-focusing word for our mission in life, or a virtue that she wanted to help us grow in. The choice of the word was up to her—our role was to pray and receive that word, and then let her unpack its meaning for us throughout the coming year. The priest paused and gave us all some time to pray. I asked Our Lady for the ‘word’ she had for me and the word “humility” came clearly to mind. As that year unfolded, I learned a lot from Mary about humility, and I know she helped me to grow in this virtue that she lived so beautifully in her life. The following year, the word I received was “contentment.” In the subsequent months, Mary helped me learn what St. Paul talks about in Philippians 4:11, “Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.” Asking the Blessed Mother for this annual theme word has proved a fruitful practice for me in my spiritual life. So at the start of each New Year, I pray and ask Our Lady to give me her special “word” for the year ahead. For this past year of 2021, my word has been “intercession.” In retrospect, I can see how appropriate this theme was for me as I am in a season of being the primary caregiver for my elderly mother. My life now revolves around caring for her, which is a privilege and honor, but it has also required me to shrink my outside involvement with people and ministries that I used to be a part of. Sometimes it can feel isolating and lonely. As my mom ages, we go to more doctor’s appointments, physical therapy sessions, wellness checkups, etc. and her emotional needs require delicate handling and reassurances. At the end of the day, I don’t have much reserve or inner bandwidth left. But in quiet moments during car rides, or in examination rooms waiting on the doctors, I can intercede for people. I let the Lord bring to mind those He wants me to pray for — friends, family members, ministry leaders in our non-profit organization, the people we serve, etc. I pray for each person as they float through my thoughts. I feel the Lord’s tender love for them, His desire to bless and heal and help them. It comforts my heart to tap into the wellsprings of love and mercy that the Good Shepherd has for His sheep. And somehow, I feel more connected to people as I cooperate with Mary in this mission that she brought into focus by giving me my “word” for this year. Instead of feeling isolated or on the fringe, a deep sense of our inner connectedness in the Body of Christ fills my heart. As we near the close of this year and the beginning of 2022, I encourage you to adopt this practice that the priest recommended. Take some time in quiet prayer and ask Our Lady to give you her “word” for you for this New Year. Receive it, and then ask her to help you understand what she means by it, how it will help you better live out God’s plan for your life, and how you can bless other people by embracing it. You may find that this simple prayer and practice will bring deep fruitfulness to your spiritual life, just as I have.
I looked up and hugged her, pressing my face into her apron that smelled like apple pies; quickly I ran off to show my brother the treasure that Nonna found for me The house was old and belonged to my great grandparents. It was a small solidly built house where they raised many children. It’s rickety parts and musty smells often betrayed the facade of the freshly painted wood siding. It was a home with a history of family memories, stories and heirlooms. When guests came to call, the graying splintered wooden back door would release wafts of heavenly aromas from freshly baked apple pies cooling on the kitchen table. It’s a home that makes me reflect fondly on my grandmother. It’s funny how recalling one simple memory can lead to another memory and then another until a whole story floods my mind. Instantly, I’m taken back to another place and time that was part of the foundation of my life. I grew up in a historical area of Kentucky, in a simpler place and time. It was a time when the mundane routines of the day were treasured as if they were family traditions. Sunday was a day of church, rest and family. We owned functional things and wore simple clothing which were either fixed or mended when they were worn out. Family and friends were relied on when we couldn’t fend for ourselves, but charity was not accepted unless it could be repaid at the first possible opportunity. Caring for another’s children was not charity, it was a necessity of life and the closest relatives were asked before friends or neighbors. Mom and Dad regarded their parental responsibilities as their primary duties. They sacrificed to provide for us and rarely had time for themselves. However, every so often, they planned a special evening out and they looked forward to time together. My grandmother, whom we called Nonna, now lived in that old house, made those heavenly pies and cheerfully cared for my siblings and me while my parents were out together. Mom’s heels clicked along the cobblestone walkway that led to Nonna’s backdoor, Daddy smelled of a freshly starched shirt and the break in our family routine filled the air with a sense of excitement on the evening when Mom and Dad went out together. Just as the old gray wooden door opened and my grandmother greeted us in her faded worn apron, I felt I’d stepped back into another time. A brief catch up conversation with Nonna was followed by a strict warning to behave ourselves and a kiss that left a waft of her cologne on our clothes and lipstick on our cheeks. When the door closed behind them, we were left to play in the adjoining room with a bag of toys we brought from home. While Nonna tidied up the kitchen and tended to an elderly sister who lived with her, we contently colored in the new coloring books bought for this evening. It wasn’t long before the sense of excitement wore off and the toys no longer held much interest. There wasn’t a television to entertain us and the antiquated parlor radio played only old static country music. The aged furnishings, fixtures, sounds and smells of the house occupied my attention for a little bit. Then, as if on cue, I heard Nonna’s house slippers shuffling along the creaking wooden floors. She stopped in the doorway to see if we were okay or needed anything. The growing idleness of the evening made me call out, “Nonna, find me something”. “What do you mean? She asked. “Mom said when she was a little girl, she would ask your sister to find her “something” when she was bored. Then your sister would find her a treasure”, I replied matter of factly. Nonna looked away to ponder my words. Without much ado she turned back and gestured, “follow me”. I scurried along behind her into a dark, cold, musty bedroom that contained some old furniture, including a beautiful, antique, wooden wardrobe. She flipped on a light and glass knob handles on its doors glistened. I’d never been in this part of her house, nor had I ever been with Nonna all by myself. I had no idea what to expect. I tried to contain my excitement, wondering what treasures could be waiting behind those doors, which seemed to beckon us to open them. This unplanned moment, filled with firsts, was almost too much for a seven year old little girl to absorb, and I didn’t want to ruin this special memory with my grandmother. Nonna reached for a glass knob, the door creaked when opened and revealed a stack of small wooden drawers. She reached into a drawer, pulled out a gently used brown leather coin purse, handed it to me and told me to open it. My little hands, nervous with anticipation, shook as I snapped it open. Tucked down into the corner of the leather was a small white pearl bead rosary with a silver crucifix. I just looked at it. Then she asked if it was a good treasure. I’d seen my Mom’s rosary, but didn’t have my own or know how to use it. However, for some reason, I thought it was the best treasure ever! I looked up, hugged her legs, pressed my face against the apron that smelled like Nonna and apple pies, then happily thanked her before I ran off to show my brother the treasure Nonna found for me. The following year I was enrolled in a Catholic elementary school where I learned more about Jesus and His Mother Mary. I received my First Holy Communion and learned to pray the Rosary. The seeds of love for Jesus and Mary took root as I continued to pray the Rosary. In time that little white pearl rosary became too small for my hands and I acquired a simple wooden rosary. I always carry the wooden one in my pocket and it too has become a treasure to me. Through the years, spending time in prayer developed a love for the Blessed Mother and her rosary. These days, before I begin my rosary prayers, I quietly ask the Blessed Mother to “find me something”. Every story exemplifies a virtue to be gained. So, I often ask her to explain the details and stories contained in the daily mysteries in order to develop those virtues in my life. She never fails to open the doors to her Son, Jesus, so that I can grow closer to Him. After meditating on what she graciously reveals, I’ve discovered that’s where the “treasures” are found. Fast forward. Today, I’m about the age of Nonna when she gave me that little white pearl rosary. When I recall the day she “found me something”, I wonder, as she paused to ponder my request, did she know the ramifications of the treasure she gave me or if she knew she was opening more than an old wardrobe door for me? In that leather coin purse, she opened a whole world of spiritual treasures. I wonder if she’d already discovered the treasure of the rosary for herself and wanted to pass it on to me. I wonder if she knew her words were prophetic when she told me to open the case myself and discover the treasure within. Nonna has long passed on to be with Jesus. I still have that brown leather coin purse with the little pearl rosary inside. From time to time I take it out and think of her. I can still hear her ask me, “Is this a good treasure?” I still happily answer her, “Yes Nonna, it is the best treasure ever!”
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