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In our society today, through medical and scientific breakthroughs, to extensive and higher levels of knowledge, the idea of miracles becomes overshadowed by explanations. There are many people who could be described as “doubting Thomas'” because to believe, they feel that they “need to see”. Almost anything can be explained if one tries hard enough. Most of the cure miracles in Luke’s Gospel can be shown to have happened to people with diseases, traced back to mental and nervous disorders. However, it is still evident that lots of people across the word still believe in miracles, as over 200 million people visit Lourdes each year.
All of the Miracles found in Luke’s Gospel, are signs of the Kingdom of God as it is obvious that the divinity of God is present, when the lame can walk, and the blind can now see. These miracles give hope to those who are themselves, in need of healing, as they show that Jesus will help them in their time of need, it also helps to strengthen their faith. Through the study of these miracles, it is easy to see that universalism is a main characteristic of Luke’s gospel, as in every miracle, it is the outcast, the marginalised, who is healed. Jesus often paired the healing with forgiveness of sins.
There are many Holy sites throughout the world, that are renowned for the miracles that have taken place there, such as Lourdes, Fatima, and Knock. Lourdes is probably the most visited of these sites, garnering over 200 million pilgrims every year. Over 7000 cures have taken place in Lourdes, but only 67 have been recognised as “miraculous” by the Catholic Church.
The latest recognised miracle was that of Anna Santaniello, who on a visit to the Baths of Lourdes was healed of her acute heart condition on the 19th of August, 1952. She was brought to the baths on a stretcher, and left walking by herself. “In front of the Grotto, I prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would restore this young man to full health so that he could at least continue to work.” Anna was a kind, selfless woman, who then went on to help unfortunate children find families and homes. Often, those healed went on to help others who were in need, following on in the example of Bernadette Soubirous, who joined the Sisters of Charity of Nevers convent, as an assistant infirmary and then a sacristan.
It is clear that the numerous charities in action today, who are responding to those in need, are following in the example that Jesus set. Charities such as Trï¿½caire, and Children in Crossfire, are constantly trying to help children and families in under developed countries. An example of the kind of people that Trocaire helps every day, is that of Juan Francisco Trujillo, aged 16, from a remote village called Caserï¿½o Chilama in El Salvador. His family live on the opposite side of the river to the rest of the village.
Flooding cuts his family off from their village. When this happens, Juan Francisco cannot go to school. ‘There is a large boulder in the middle of the river. If the water is over this boulder, I know it is too dangerous to cross’, says Juan. Another example of someone helped through the work of Trocaire, is Mary Akai, who suffers from Aids who is a member of the HIV/AIDS support group at Love and Hope Centre, three of her children died of AIDS. She calls the founder of the centre, Sister Patricia Speight, her new mother. “I thought I was dying,” she said. “I owe my recovery to Sister Patricia. She fed me from a spoon when I was too low.”
Many of those in need, visit “faith healers” and though some genuinely believe that they can cure people of disease, many are con-artists who steal innocent people’s money, or some actually try to “heal” or get rid of “demons” from children. ‘Ndoki’ was said to target children particularly either when still in the womb or in early childhood through a piece of food infected with the evil spirit, said Dr Hoskins who has made an extensive study of traditional religions in Africa. “We know that ndoki does exist. Back home and everywhere else too there are people who are used by the devil to bring a curse or bad luck to other people’s lives, even to kill them,” says Pastor Modeste Muyulu. Dr Hoskins, is a consultant to the Metropolitan Police on religiously-motivated ‘ndoki exorcisms’, agrees instances of extreme violence are rare.
“My experience of Africa and the Congo where I’ve lived for years and travelled a lot is that Congolese people love their kids,” he said. He also believes that some of the churches and charities set up by Congolese people in the UK were simply “money-making schemes”. Antoine Lokongo, the editor of a Congolese newsletter, Congo Panorama, believes the growing violence in exorcisms is due to western influence. Two women and a man from England were arrested for the abuse of an eight year old girl who they suspected of having ‘ndoki’.
The girl testified that the adults slapped, punched and kicked her repeatedly. One pushed a kitchen knife into her chest until it drew blood. She told police, “It’s because my auntie says I have witchcraft. She dances and laughs when she hits me.” AB was beaten with belt buckles and a high-heeled shoe. She was only fed tea and bread. The adults seemed particularly concerned that the girl would practice her evil powers at night time. So they woke her up twice and rubbed chilli-peppers into her eyes. They forced her into a large plastic bag, allegedly to “throw her away for good” by drowning her in a nearby river. But they changed their mind at the last moment.
In conclusion, miracles will always be relevant to today, as at some point in our lives, we are all in need of some miracle, whether it is the strength to make it through another day, or the forgiveness of sins to heal our conscience. Although some may find it hard to believe, almost anything can be changed into something cruel and evil, in comparison to what it was before, even the miracles in the bible. But Pastor Modeste Muyulu says “But disciples should only do what the master did, I never read in the bible about Jesus Christ being violent with anybody to cast out any spirit.” Therefore we should always try to be like disciples of Jesus and help those who are in need, and never intentionally hurt another human being, as we know that Jesus himself would never do something like this.