Ask Fr. Jerry

People will often describe the Christmas Season as a magical time of year. What is the difference between a miracle and magic?

To start to understand the difference, we need to look at the source of both miracles and magic. Let’s start with magic. I have always enjoyed doing magic. I have a great trick in which I can pour water into a Styrofoam cup and then make the water disappear. After filling the cup with water, I poke holes in it and I will even hold the cup over someone’s head and then poke a hole in the bottom. Nothing comes out! People are amazed at my power to make the water disappear. There is the key to magic. I, as the magician, am the source of the magic. I need to do my preparations to make my trick work and there is always a good explanation to how the trick worked. A good magician never reveals his tricks (and no, I am not going to tell you how I make the water disappear).

Miracles, on the other hand, come from the hand of God. They cannot be easily explained. We believe that God is present in our lives and takes an active part in our lives. While we are not robots of God, because we have free will, we also believe that God can work in and through our lives. God does answer prayer. Sometimes we say it was a miracle when something unusual or unexpected happens to us. “It was a miracle that I got an A on the test” or “It was a miracle that he made the half-court shot in the basketball game.” While we use the term “miracle” in these cases, sometimes it is the result of our own preparation or it may just be plain luck.

A true miracle comes from God. A true miracle helps us to see the work of God in our lives and in our world. But not all miracles need to be mysterious. Many times, God works his miracles though the work and help of other people. The miracle of being cured of cancer, is both the power of prayer and the wonderful work of the doctors, nurses and researchers who have devoted their lives to being a tool of God’s miracles.

In the Gospels, Jesus performed many miracles and each was meant not only to heal the person or raise the dead or whatever the miracle might have been, it was also meant to strengthen the faith of the people and point them toward God. Jesus wasn’t a magician; he was the Son of God and all his miracles point back to God. Our faith is deepened when we believe and open our eyes to see the miracles that surround us. The key to knowing the difference between magic and miracles is “who is the source?” We rely upon God for all things – he is the source for all we need.