Faith or positive thinking? (Miracles)

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Hi All, this post is for our Gospel of John study (#33) 

Since so much of the Gospel of John (which we’re studying) focuses on Jesus’s miracles, now is a good time to raise a question about miracles in the New Testament in general.

In the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke), miracles are often associated with faith. The petitioner has faith in God for healing or miracle and in Jesus Christ (as God’s prophet and servant). The Gospel of John carries on this relationship between faith and miracle in that miracles exhibit who Jesus is as the Son of God. The recipients recognize (i.e. have faith in) Jesus’s divine status through miracles.

The Gospel of John does not equate sickness with  sin, however– for instance, some would ascribe blindness to sin while Jesus denies such causality (John 9).

If faith has something to do with miracle and healing, what’s the connection? Is positive thinking equivalent to faith? Or is faith something else?

Positive thinking can be a beneficial practice, since life goes better when we focus on success and positive outcomes, which we can bring about through our actions. However, if positive thinking masks fear — or an unwillingness to acknowledge pain and suffering — then surely positive thinking amounts to denial (or: lying) and a lack of compassion (or: love).

Furthermore, how realistic is it to believe –given our world — that we should exert our minds to stay positive at every moment, considering that we are subject to many fearsome and unpleasant influences (e.g. in the news, our interactions, and in the rest of our lives) and since it is natural to sorrow and despair at times. If we exert ourselves to stay positive by strenuous efforts, then, in a sense, we give power to evil and negativity because our positivity can be a shield of resistance toward what we fear. The fear stays alive as we resist.

Faith is the opposite of fear. Perfect love casts out fear. So, a positivity that is based on fear can be counter-productive and the enemy of faith.

Instead, faith originates in Spirit and reverberates on the levels of mind, heart, and body.  Faith has to do with the right use of intelligence. We reason things through from a bigger perspective in order to find the best outcomes and solutions — in response to disease, disaster, devastation – and to maximize good and generous intentions.

Faith can be about emotional surrender. We recognize our sadness, negativity, and despair while surrendering it– offering it to God with devotion. Devotion reminds and assures us that God is love. We ask by devotion to experience and understand this love, which is a force of goodness despite our feelings to the contrary.

Faith manifests physically when we take steps to surpass our own limitations of body, to exercise good care for ourselves and others (in material ways), and when we keep moving forward toward our goals in the world with patience and a positive attitude.

How would it be to design a ritual for disposing of fear and strengthening faith? One can keep track of one’s fears, their patterns and their regular content. Offer your fears in a ceremony: bury them in the ground so that fear sprouts to faith or throw them in the fire, so that pain can be transmuted to enthusiasm. Cast your fears to the wind, which will carry them away. The wind represents the Spirit and the breath of life. Or take a cleansing bath to rejuvenate your heart.

 

Jesus Fresco PLUS Lazarus

fresco-depicting-jesus-with-a-cruciform-halo-early-christian-fresco-ERG2G5

Fresco depicting Jesus with a cruciform halo. Early Christian fresco in the Ponzianus catacomb, Rome, Italy. Third to sixth

26 fresco healing of blind man and raising of lazarus

The Miracle of Christ Raising Lazarus from the Dead; Spain, ca. 1120-1140; fresco transferred to canvas. NY Cloisters

350_Tombstone for loculus burial of Young Man_Roman, Second half 4th Century_Vatican, Pio-Cristiano Museum

Tombstone for the burial of Datus Roman, Second half 4th Century Vatican, Pio-Cristiano Museum The inscription reads: “Given by his parents for their well-beloved son, Datus, who lived 20 years, in peace”

1315_Workshop of Pacino di Bonaguida_Scenes from Life of Christ and the Life of Blessed Gerard of Villamagna _Italian (Florence), 1315-1325_Morgan_MS M643.007r

Possibly Jacopino da Reggio, Raising of Lazarus from a Psalter Italian (Bologna), End of the 13th Century Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France MS Smith-Lesouef 21, fol. 16

 Lazarus Art Collection: See Link