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Miracles and Crosses – Two Sides of the Same Coin

July 25, 2017 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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Miracles and Crosses – Two Sides of the Same Coin

The Lord (Week 6 of 23)

The miracle reveals the world as it appears to God: the world viewed from within, from the perspective of the human heart and human fate. It also teaches us who God is: him to whom man’s fate means so much…He is the God of hearts.

…God is moved by the suffering human heart; the pain of it clouds his face, and we understand who he is and what St. Paul means when he speaks of the “goodness and kindness of God” (Tit 3:4). It is inadequate to speak of him as philosophy speaks — as the Absolute, the eternally Immutable. He is the Living One, the Close One, the One forever drawing near in holy freedom. He is the Love who not only operates, but specifically acts in love. God is he who responds to a cry for help by re-commanding natural law. 

But why? Why , when after all, the world continues as before? Everywhere children die, mothers weep and fathers tremble, sisters are left alone. Everywhere human life is torn off unfulfilled. What is the good of these glimpses of divine reality? 

They are given us to strengthen our faith, to suggest to us how things really stand with the world, only that we have not the eyes to see and must take Christ at his word…For him the heart and fate of each of us is the center of the world, but the visible unrolling of the cosmos conceals this from us. — The Lord, Part 2: Chapter V, Paragraph

Miracles inspire us. They move us, drawing us out of this world and reminding us of the world to come. Miracles are extraordinary; supernatural. They WOW us. They throw us off-balance, making us feel a little less at home in this “vale of tears,” by virtue of their intoxicating beauty. Miracles remind us that we are on a journey, and that earth is merely a place of exile, not our ultimate destination. They point toward purpose – for we were created for better things. Miracles offer a glimpse into heaven, where “eye has not seen and ear has not heard…” (1 Cor. 2:9)

Thankfully, for those who have faith, miracles are not merely found in Bible stories or the lives of the saints. Rather, they become an integral part of everyday life. What skeptics dismiss as mere coincidence, the Christian sees as God’s loving hand reaching into the most personal areas of our lives. We know that in miracles, God seeks union with us. We witness His love first hand. We feel lavished with gifts from our Heavenly Father.

But while it is easy to recognize God's love through miracles, it can sometimes be a challenge to witness God's love in the Cross. And yet, isn't the Cross the greatest evidence of His Love?

When Christians experience a particularly harrowing event – the loss of health or the life of a loved one, or even worse – their terminal suffering – it can be so hard to see through all the pain and the seeming ugliness of this world to experience God's light in the midst of darkness. We wonder, Why doesn't God remove this cross from me? Why does he perform miracles for some, but not for me? We can fall into despair, feeling alone and unloved by The One Who is love itself.

But if we think about it, like the miracles in our lives, crosses also serve as gifts from God. Like a miracle, the goal of the cross is to unite us to God. In fact, crosses offer the opportunity for much more intimate unions than do the miraculous. If you think about it, yes, we recognize a miracle as a way for God to show Himself in our lives with all the awe and fanfare one can imagine. But the cross? This is indescribable intimacy. According to Saint Teresa of Calcutta,

Pain and suffering have com into your life, but remember pain, sorrow, suffering are but the kiss of Jesus – a sign that you have come so close to Him that He can kiss you.

How can this be?

As a parent, I tend to liken everything to the relationships between my children and me. After all, as a mother, don't I become a sharer in God's paternal and… maternal ways of teaching (Letter to Families)?  Let's try a simple analogy. A couple of years ago we had an important obligation that happened to fall on our daughter's birthday. She had been so excited to finally have a birthday on a Saturday; but instead of celebrating she had to babysit her younger brothers and sisters. As a show of our love and devotion, we decided to throw her a surprise birthday party the evening before. She was shocked and thrilled. And no doubt, our daughter felt the effort was a special sign of our love for her. In the loosest sense, I liken that party to a miracle – an unexpected but overwhelming gift of love.

A few years before the surprise party, that same daughter fell and broke two bones in her elbow. The pain of the fall was nothing compared to the excruciating suffering she endured through the surgery and the eventual removal of several steel rods from her arm. That entire time, she wondered why we couldn't take the pain away. How we could allow doctors and nurses to prod and pull and inflict what she saw as unnecessary suffering? As a mother, holding her hand through all the pain was nearly unbearable. But while she didn't realize it at the time, we knew that those well-meaning doctors were inflicting only pain that was necessary for her healing.

Interestingly enough, while our daughter appreciated the surprise party, to this day, she holds the memory of our time together in the hospital as one of her most precious. She has shared with me that, looking back, she cannot remember feeling more loved than she did during her darkest days. At first I was surprised to hear this. Our daughter certainly didn't recognize our love for what it was at the time. But she does now. And the bond those days created? Priceless.

Isn't that the same for us? Don't we, too, look back on some of our most painful moments and understand only in hindsight why they had to be?  In hindsight, can't we, too, recognize God's loving hand guiding and serving us through our pain?

God promises us:

For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. -Jeremiah 29:11

God never wills evil for us. Rather, he seeks only our good. But God longs for us to seek Him with all our hearts. Sometimes our pain helps us to do that. Particularly if we recognize it as a gift and Trust in Him for our good.

A Christian who refuses to recognize Christ in the cross is no different from the skeptic who encounters a miracle and dismisses it. The skeptic dismisses God's presence and turns away, sure that the natural world holds the answers to even the most astonishing questions. And for that mistake, he loses an opportunity to grow in faith, hope and love. The Christian who becomes lost deep in the muck and mire of the natural world forgets to reach up, or fails to recognize Christ's hand when it's there. In that way, the Christian, too, can become stuck in the natural world.

Miracles and Crosses are merely two sides of the same coin.

God is there. Even amidst our greatest pain. And if we approach pain with the same openness with which we approach the miraculous, we would be amazed at the beauty and goodness we would find. Rather than seek an alternative cross, we must thank God for loving us enough to offer the perfect cross for our salvation. He knows us like no one else. And every cross He allows serves to unite His people – each in a particular way –  to His Sacred Heart.

We must remember that everything that happens to us in this earthly life is gift. Not merely the miracles, but also the crosses. Just as the miracles we witness seem to scream of His love, the crosses we bear serve to help us grow in faith. For the open heart, the cross offers an opportunity to Trust. It is a hand in the darkness, reaching and grasping, pulling us to secure ground. When bad things happen, we may not recognize the good. We may be blinded by pain, grief or despair. But if we Trust, we will no doubt come out stronger. More peaceful. And more united with our Creator.

Bottom line – when God allows crosses, He is seeking all the same things that Guardini claims He seeks through miracles –

The cross reveals the world as it appears to God: the world viewed from within, from the perspective of the human heart and human fate. It also teaches us who God is: him to whom man’s fate means so much…He is the God of hearts…

…Crosses are given us to strengthen our faith, to suggest to us how things really stand with the world, only that we have not the eyes to see and must take Christ at his word…For him the heart and fate of each of us is the center of the world, but the visible unrolling of the cosmos conceals this from us.


Reading Assignment:

Part 2: IX-XII

Discussion Questions:

1.Has God reached you through a cross? Were you open to His presence, or did you initially turn away? Ponder any crosses in your life right now. What can you do to open your heart to Christ through your pain? What can you do to help you to Trust?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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