-- Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, a huge nationwide bestseller about a boy who "died" and saw angels, miracles, by Todd Burpo, a beautifully written glimpse into eternity that will encourage those who doubt and thrill those who believe -- a little boy's remarkable 'trip' during an emergency appendectomy and what he described in a near-death experience authenticated by his descriptions of the hospital and procedures! Soon out as major movie. $15.00




There it was, straightforwardly, last week, in the readings on Thanksgiving Day: a refutation of the view that "signs and wonders" are not to be considered by "serious" Catholics -- that they are somehow trivial, or naught more than coincidence.

The words (in the reading for Thursday in the thirty-four week of ordinary time), came directly from Daniel Chapter Six (the Bible).

Let those with ears hear:

"For He is the living God, enduring forever; his Kingdom shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be without end. He is a deliverer and savior, working signs and wonders in Heaven and on earth..."

It's hard to be clearer than that.

The reading clearly refutes the notion (all too popular in our own Church) of "cessationism," which posits that miracles on earth stopped with the last Apostle.

"Enduring forever" means wonders that continue through time, that remain today as they did thousands of years ago  -- contrary to what many mainline Protestants (and former Protestants) seem to maintain, along with all too many Catholics who are caught up in a materialistic, modernistic, and sterile view of religion. They believe only in what science (which has very limited eyesight) can explain.

Those who pooh-pooh or at least downplay things like sun phenomena and weeping statues might be asked: are not these logically placed in the category of "signs and wonders" (along with miraculous healings)?

Note that the passage took the time to state that wonders occur in Heaven and on earth.

Kids' stuff?

Mere "curiosities"?

While one always has to be on the lookout for imagination, exaggeration, or hoax (although hoax is not common), to dismiss current phenomena out of hand -- as we see in this passage -- is to contradict the Bible's own teaching.

Nothing that Heaven causes should be besmirched as trivial.

There is also the widespread current notion, sometimes even from the pulpit, that God does not punish, that we are not to consider "signs of the times": events in nature and human events that may be harbingers. That notion  is rebutted by Jesus Himself. All we need to do is listen to His own words (part of last Thursday's same Mass readings):

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand (Luke 21).”

We are to "stand erect."

We are to raise our heads (which means look not to earth, but to the supernatural, to Heaven). Those who don't believe that don't take Jesus literally.

“At that final moment of calamity, it seems like [the devil] will take over this world, he will master the world,” Pope Francis preached on Thursday (11/28/13), pointedly alluding to the fact that in our time -- now -- many religious symbols have become taboo: that the satanic anti-christ forces seeking to destroy God manifest in the contemporary desire to keep religion as “a private thing.”

These too are signs.

These too should be watched.

Is it "doom and gloom"? Are these (and other signs) "superstition"?

Let scoffers beware, lest they become part of the apostasy.

As famed Catholic Alice von Hildebrand said during an interview in 2006: "Even the pagan Plato was open to a sense of the supernatural. He spoke of the weakness, frailty and cowardice often evidenced in human nature. He was asked by a critic to explain why he had such a low opinion of humanity. He replied that he was not denigrating man, only comparing him to God. With the loss of a sense of the supernatural, there is a loss of the sense of the need for sacrifice today. The closer one comes to God, the greater should be one's sense of sinfulness. The further one gets form God, as today, the more we hear the philosophy of the new age: I'm OK, You're OK.' This loss of the inclination to sacrifice has led to the obscuring of the Church's redemptive mission."

We are not to be obsessed with such matters -- with signs -- but neither are we to ignore them.

We are to "wait." We are to be vigilant as we go about the most important chore on earth: personal salvation.

[resources: Fear of Fire and Michael Brown retreats: Florida and North Carolina]

[Photo at top by Damien Peach]

[Feedback: "I agree totally with your headline article today about signs and wonders. I have seen some firsthand and, after eliminating any possible ‘rational’ explanation, I believe that what I experienced, or witnessed, was supernatural. On October 13th of this year, our parish  (Our Lady of Peace, Williamstown, NJ) sponsored a bus trip to the Fatima Shrine in Washington, New Jersey, to celebrate the anniversary of the 'miracle of the sun' and final apparition of our Blessed Mother in Fatima. On the return trip, the entire bus, which included a priest and several nuns, witnessed the miracle of the sun. Everyone saw the same thing and they could stare directly into the sun with the naked eye for well over an hour! This gets even better: To this day, my wife, and one of her friends who was on the trip with her, still see the miracle of the sun nearly every day. They see the same thing at the same time.  Several times I’ve tried staring directly into the sun while she was, and I couldn’t do it, which proves to me that what’s happening is real. On a funny note, one Sunday afternoon, my wife came running into the house yelling, 'Come outside, the sun’s spinning again.' So, I ran outside and tried looking into the sun, but I couldn’t; but the funny parts is we didn’t realize it at the time, that one of our neighbors was watching us!  My wife and I got a big laugh and we could only imagine that she probably thought we’d lost our minds. We’re members of Betania X, and we hear constantly about the humility of Maria Esperanza and how that humility was key to her supernatural gifts. I think that people who 'poo-poo' these kinds of phenomena are exhibiting a level of arrogance that blocks them from experiencing them. Nearly all the approved Marian apparitions involve simple, humble people, and most of them are children, which is consistent with the Bible which says that we have to be like little children to get into Heaven. God Bless You! George Creel, Betania X, Williamstown, NJ"]


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