So, just what, then, is a miracle?
One of the questions I ask the students in my freshman theology class at Fordham University is, "So, just what, then, is a miracle?" This question comes as we talk about the Enlightenment and David Hume's argument that there are no miracles.
Here's an answer, of sorts.
We moved into the Rectory on February 8. As you may remember, we had a major winter storm on February 9. During the storm, one of my daughters and I were looking out the window as an old pine tree blew over. It fell from the Rectory yard into our neighbor's yard. It narrowly missed the neighbor's porch, and it snapped fairly high, which means that it did not destroy the fence.
I think this was a great stroke of luck. Was it a miracle? Who knows. Would that I were privy to God's manipulations of the world!
Here's where I am convinced a miracle occurred. I emailed this picture of the tree to our facilities manager, who called our landscaper, who said he would remove the trunk of the tree a few hours later. Remember, this was during a major winter storm! Our landscaper had plenty of shoveling to do all around town. The next morning, our landscaper returned and removed the tree.
I tend to follow Aquinas--God created the world and thus becomes the primary cause of everything. Meanwhile, we also work and create and bring things into being, which makes us the secondary cause of everything.
So, I would attribute the miraculous not to a lucky break of a tree (and you can see in the stump that the tree was rotting on the inside). Instead, I see God at work in the quick response of a staff person, in the quick response of a contractor, and in the relationships that were deepened and formed through this tree falling over.
In Jesus, God come into the world and formed real human relationships. After the snow stopped falling, real human relationships were deepened and formed around the broken trunk of a pine tree. There is certainly something of God in a group of people who gather to help each other out when nature happens.