It’s a Miracle… or Is It?

I just watched a news report tonight on ABC’s Nightline that explored the subject of miracles, featuring a town in eastern Europe that claims to have regular appearances by the Virgin Mary. It’s part of a larger project by Bill Weir, one of the anchors and a fine reporter, that airs Wednesday night. Now, about this town… I’m reacting immediately, so details are sketchy in my mind … but sometime in the 1980s the Virgin appeared to six school children and gave them each a special gift. One of them can heal (or be a conduit for divine healing). Since that time, the Virgin apparently appears fairly regularly to these same six individuals and the town, church, etc. in which they reside has become a major Catholic pilgrimage site. People of all ilks come to be healed, deliver prayer requests, and seek Mary’s guidance. One woman in Weir’s report had stage 4 cancer and gained an audience with the healer, who prayed over her as the pilgrim wept.

If this was an isolated report of Mary’s appearing, then it would be easy to slough it off as religious emotionalism. But every year people claim to see Mary in everything from business windows to French toast. Every now and then someone reports the Virgin speaking. But usually it’s glimpses. Until the window washer comes or the toast gets tossed. Of course, these manifestations of the mother of Jesus bring Catholic faithful from all over in hopes of miraculous happenings. Usually people want physical healing. Sometimes they want career help. And they believe — or are convinced of  — Mary’s ability and willingness to intercede for them in divine power.

The doctrine of Mary permits this in the Roman Catholic Church. She is seen as the mother of God and the most special human in His life. Her person hood has been elevated to “mother” of the church and, to some theologians, co-redeemer with Christ. After all, she gave flesh to Jesus and that flesh was crucified for our sin. Jesus bore Mary’s likeness just as He bore the likeness of God the Father. But the doctrine of Mary does not go back to the early church, nor the church fathers. In fact, Mary is absent from the early writings and any historical accounts of the early church. One pseudopigraphal (written under a false name) letter called the Protoevangelium of James is the foundation for so-called “Maryology.” It was written no earlier than the late 2nd Century AD (180-200), long after the first few generations of apostles and disciples faded away. And it was never accepted as inspired of God until long after the formation of the Roman Catholic Church. Since about 1880, though, Maryology has been in high practice in the Catholic Church. I might write more about all this later on.

Anyway, a reliance on Mary for miracles and intercession reveals a very different belief among die-hard Maryologists. That belief creates a distance between God and man that needs bridging. It goes something like this: Jesus Christ, the Father and Holy Spirit are God. The saints and mother Mary, representing the Church, are the bridge. Therefore, it is necessary for sinful man to go through sanctified man to reach a holy God. Gone is the direct channel to the throne of God Himself found in Hebrews 10. Mankind’s sin is hyped up, even for those inside the community of faith. The fact that people need another intercessor — any intercessor — shows a belief that Jesus Christ is not enough. It has to. Jesus is the only Mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5-6; 1 Jn 2:1-2). And the forgiven now have direct access to God’s throne because of what Jesus did on the cross. Mary included. And Peter and Paul and Clement and Athanasius and Augustine and Francis. Was mother Mary blessed by God above all other women? Yes. Undoubtedly. She was chosen to bear and raise the Savior of our race. That was her place. She raised Jesus.

But, folks, you can go straight to the throne of healing and guidance and grace without lighting a candle, holding beads or repeating Hail Marys. Just seek Him and pray to Him. Your closet is just as good a place as a village in eastern Europe. Just as holy. And He’ll hear just as well. Maybe better. Who knows?

Now for the subject of miracles….. Oops. Out of time. Drats.

— John