Signs and Wonders
by Mr. José Prado Flores
John’s Gospel does not speak about "miracles" performed by Jesus, it refers to his "signs" because what we see is not important, but rather what we believe through what we see. This is the real dimension of God’s prodigious manifestations. Saint John the Evangelist has selected seven signs replete with theological content in order to describe both Jesus' person and his mission in this world. In the wedding at Cana, Jesus is the bridegroom who gives the new wine (joy and happiness) to his bride (the Church which is represented by his disciples).
In the healing of the royal servant, what shows is the power of Jesus regardless of racial or geographical boundaries.
When multiplying the bread, Jesus is the new Moses who gives the true bread from heaven, his body and his blood.
When walking on the surface of the sea (not on water, like Peter) what becomes obvious is Jesus’ universal dominion over all creation, particularly over demoniac power, signified by the sea.
When healing the paralytic at Bezata (which means "house of mercy") Jesus is revealing himself as the new house of the Father’s mercy, which is above the law, represented by the Sabbath.
By healing at Siloe (which means "sent by") the man born blind we discover the light that was sent to the world in order to perform a new creation.
In raising Lazarus, Jesus reveals himself as the resurrection and the life.
But the great sign, the greatest of them all, is Jesus himself manifesting the love of the Father. To this extent God loved the world—that He sent His only Son not for damnation but rather for salvation. Jesus is the clearest sign that manifests the love of the Father to all mankind, particularly to sinners.
And that is this same meaning of the signs and wonders that we witness in the Charismatic Renewal. They are manifest in the living Jesus, plentiful of mercy towards his sick sheep, seeking not merely for health but for salvation.
Thus, each miracle, healing and wonder we witness has an evangelical message. Otherwise they would be depleted of their true meaning . We are not talking here about marvelous happenings meant to call our attention, we are talking about signs which manifest the merciful love of God to the world. Healing is not essential in itself (people can be healed in the hospital or by medical treatment). Its essence is its meaning. Every sign and wonder is like an iceberg—only a small part of it shows on the surface.
Signs go hand in hand with the process of evangelization and are satellites whirling by the Word of salvation. Away from this context they become isolated meteorites lost in space. Healing escorts the preached Word. Each manifestation of the Spirit is meant as a sign of the total salvation brought to us by Jesus. If he is capable of healing the body, how much more capable he will be of forgiving our sins. If he raises those lying in the grave, this means that he can give new life to those who believe in his name. During his worldwide evangelizing and healing journey, Father Raniero Cantalmessa claimed that God would heal some sick people through the ministry of Father Emilian Tardif as a sign that all of us gathered at the Foggia Stadium, some 23,000 would be healed of the leprosy of sin.
Paul says to the Thessalonians "for our gospel did not come to you in words only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit..." (1,5).
Evangelization in the power of the Holy Spirit is meant to manifest the risen Jesus, the one who is the Way, Truth, and Life. If the miracles and healings we see in the Charismatic Renewal were not Christ-centered they would become meaningless. There are never miracles without evangelization nor evangelization without signs manifesting Jesus’ love, forgiveness and mercy. If within the Church the word is many times proclaimed without accompanying signs, within the Charismatic Renewal the opposite is the risk: the promotion of charisma and healing not centered in Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Healings performed by God are not meant to publicize the power of our prayer or to certify our healing charisma, but to manifest God's love and mercy for his children. Charismatic Renewal is not about our powerful prayer or our healing charisma, but about God's love for us. This explains why he heals his sick children, since he means our total and integral salvation in this world and in the next.
we do not want isolated charisma. We want charisma in order to evangelize. Nor do we want to evangelize with words alone, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, which becomes manifest in the signs, wonders and miracles that are salvation-related in them.
Just as the biggest "sign" in the gospel is Jesus himself, the greatest "sign" and the most important one within the Charismatic Renewal will be to make Him the risen and living Jesus who is present in the world; and to render his salvation effective amidst all the peoples of this world.
Mr. José Prado Flores represents Mexico on the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services Council. © 1999 ICCRS Newsletter, Vatican City.