Miracles Don’t Happen If You Never Ask For Them

Oh my Venus. The stars were bright last night. And I pushed myself beyond previously held convictions about how I’m capable of exerting myself, because the weather was very fine. We took a gluttonous number of free trees from the annual Community-Beautification-something-or-other event. Whatever it is, you bring the city your pollutants and they give you trees.

Then we faced down the hard reality, that each tree requires you to dig a hole, to break up the dirt, to plant, to fill in, and to fertilize. There were nine varieties. We took a number of each. We planted thirty-nine trees, which is overdoing it, maybe, both for the yard, and for our backs.

Getting a little older, I’m always feeling new degrees of pain. My knee swells up at its own dumb logic, becoming an occasional handicap that dissipates after a day or two of thinking, “This is it. I’m a cripple.”

In another day, the swelling is gone. I’ll feel youthful and pleased because it looks like the prayers worked. Miracles are granted! I suspect it’s just arthritis, but can every day that it doesn’t hurt still be a miracle? Because I rejoice in it.

Just so, I rejoice in my children when they are kind to each other. Peace between them is often only a brief flash of light in a long dark night–all the more heavenly because of the exile, and sometimes hell, that precedes it–a lifting of the veil to a world without pain, tears, or discord.

Every good thing is a work of the Lord, something to affirm, cherish and enlarge, when possible. What we affirm becomes stronger. Affirm grace. Affirm the miraculous. Affirm healing. Affirm trust.

Sunday was the feast of Divine Mercy. It was also, coincidentally, the end of a 54 day Rosary Novena I began on Ash Wednesday. I had an intention, a modest miracle in mind as I prayed. And my miracle was granted.

Mary is a holy sieve, through whom heaven passes on its way to earth, and earth passes en route to heaven. And the Rosary, prayed every day, is a complete walk through the Gospel when I meditate on each of the twenty mysteries of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection that coordinate with each decade.

So the Novena “worked” from the very first day. I didn’t have to wait until the end for my miracle. It began to unfold from the first, as Divine life took root in a place where it hadn’t been for a long time.

I believe in miracles, because as I’ve experienced them, they almost always occur in revelation rather than material change. The Holy Spirit opens my eyes, providing an awareness of where I stand before and in God.

The miracle is never that everyone and everything else is transformed while I remain the same. It’s the opposite. I am transformed. Nothing may have changed exteriorly. But the interior life is the only thing that matters.

When the interior is transformed, then slow change in my material circumstances begins to manifest, because I can no longer interact with my environment and in my relationships in the way I did before.

As long as I protect and encourage this Divine life, the longer the miracle lasts, and the larger it becomes. There is potential enough for an earthly lifetime, as physical pain in my knee, for instance, becomes not an obstacle, but an interior opportunity.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
(2 Corinthians 4:18)

I would like to say that the act of planting thirty-nine trees in our yard was a manifestation of the miracle for which I asked. Aside from the initial metaphor of trading in our junk for new life, we assigned each of the kids a handful of trees to plant and tend. We let them choose their tree, and the spot in which to plant it. They agreed to water their trees and “adopt” them, so to speak.

The project required no monetary investment, but it suggested an investment of years. My husband and I will never see a white oak mature in our back yard, and neither, likely will our children, but maybe their children will. And to see my family together through years is my greatest hope.

Our family worked in accord for all of one day, and that was a miracle. Scattering is far easier than gathering, and most of our days are scattered. I would like to suggest to my children a recurring gathering, to tend to what we’ve planted.

Even the superfluity of hope in planting so many trees feels miraculous. The likelihood of 39 saplings surviving the lawnmower, the kids, the dog, the weather, and the years is slim to none. Indeed, over the years that we’ve lived here, I’ve probably planted close to a hundred trees. Of those, a tenth have survived.

There’s no guarantee of success. The only guarantee of failure, however, is not planting at all. To hope beyond reasoning, together, and to honor that hope with our sweat–it’s all I really want out of life.

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