Can you imagine a woman who suffered such tremendous injuries from a car accident caused by a drunk driver, leaving her to be confined to a wheelchair for more than twenty-two years – regaining her ability to walk after a Christian evangelist prayed over her?  The story of Delia Knox is one of hundreds that are recounted in this book entitled “Miracles Today” where author Craig Keener recounts for his readers with extensive footnotes and references pointing to testimonies supporting the extraordinary claims being offered.  Delia Knox’s story is particularly remarkable because before the accident, she was well known in her community as a singer, so when the accident occurred, leaving her paralyzed, there was extensive local news coverage of the story.  Being a faith-filled person, she had gone to numerous healing services over the years… she had heard people speak words of faith that “one day she would be healed” – some with great confidence – but as the years passed, some of those closest to Delia believed that to be a prophecy that would be fulfilled in heaven.  As one of her ministers, who had gotten so close to her over the years that she had become like a second daughter to him, noted, she couldn’t have felt her legs even if someone had driven a nail through them.

Thanks so much for stopping by to read this homily for the 11th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, June 16, 2024.  I appreciate your sharing this on your social media posts and your feedback and comments…  I’m also grateful for all those who’ve asked for the audio version and share them as well at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE.  May the Lord be glorified in your reading and sharing- Father Jim

While she was still praying and kept renewing her faith and hope, she experienced understandable doubts after so many years and grew leery of going to any more healing services.  Especially after being subjected sometimes to well-intentioned but misguided ministers trying to pull her from her chair expecting her to walk and being disappointed.  As she put it, “I’ve been plopped, dropped, flopped, and flipped to the point that I just couldn’t go through it anymore.”

In 2009, while attending a Christian conference, she didn’t realize that there would be healing service as part of it, because if she had, as she put it, she wouldn’t have gone.  There were a bunch of things that were different, this time though.  While at the service and seeing so many others who were suffering and longing for healing, she found herself moved with tremendous compassion for an ill baby.  So here she was at a healing service, in her wheelchair of 22 years, but she wasn’t thinking or praying for herself.  She was lost in compassion for this infant.  And so when the minister prayed over her, she was startled as she began to feel something in her legs for the first time in 22 years.  She also felt a spiritual tug of war within her.  These questions arose in her heart – are you willing to risk your pride and take a step of faith, even if you fall.   For the first time, she stood up – stumbled a bit, sat back down, and could continue to feel that tug of war between the doubts and her faith… she stood up and, with the assistance of her husband and the minister, began to walk around the conference room.  Her muscles had atrophied after years of disuse, so, she experienced pain and difficulty.  Still, within a few weeks, she had regained complete use of her legs, could walk on her own, and returned to visit her home Church, where she was able to greet her pastor, who says that although he experienced a miracle himself being cured of polio as a boy and had witnessed numerous other miracles over his lifetime and in his ministry, this was the most extraordinary thing he had ever seen… recalling “I’ll never forget the first time when I could look directly in her face.  She walked off the plane pushing the wheelchair with her luggage in it.”

The author, Craig Keener, notes that “hardline skeptics do not want to call anything that could possibly happen naturally a miracle, but when God does something that cannot happen naturally, they deny that any such thing is possible.  How can one explain the disappearance of paralysis after 22 years?  [or insist] she had simply faked paralysis for twenty-two years so she could claim healing now?”

Even more, though, what does it take to convince someone to believe in God that He is who He says He is, that He is faithful, that He is all powerful, all loving – to be moved to trust in Him, to surrender to Him?

One of the images we encounter in today’s readings is of growing plants and trees… Planting shoots, seeds – that put forth branches and bear fruit.  Theses basics of gardening we’ve learned and continue to see and observe are so ordinary and routine that we can even take them for granted.  But there’s a beauty to the simplicity and accessibility of these most common and essential experiences that we encounter.  When the prophet Ezekiel first spoke the words we heard in the first reading today over 25 centuries ago to the people of Israel, evoking some of this planting and fruitfulness imagery  – their minds and thoughts were the complete opposite extreme – all on barrenness…  The Kingdom had been broken apart by divisions within, then pillaged, and conquered by outside forces, and now the city of Jerusalem and the holiest and most sacred of places on earth, the Temple of God, hung in the balance and was about to be destroyed as the final humiliation.  Everything around them seemed to point to devastation and desolation.  Yet God sends the prophet to share this idealistic, optimistic message that God will take a “tender shoot” transplant it and it would grow again…

For those experiencing these terrible times that seemed impossible to imagine happening.  After so much loss, so much heart break, seeing everything go from bad to worse, they didn’t want to get their hopes up.  Mostly because they realized it was their sinfulness, disobedience, and arrogance all had consequences and brought them to this moment of desolation.  But through the words of His prophet, God was reminding them that He had not abandoned them.  He didn’t want them to wallow in their poor decisions and choices – but to repent of them – and to turn back to Him.   Trusting His promises of a true, lasting Kingdom that His people could experience the fulfillment they longed for.

Centuries later, Jesus is seen fulfilling those ancient prophecies as he shares these parables in the Gospel. He isn’t simply restoring things to the way they were before, but instead, he’s ushering in something entirely new. Through him, the Lord God is renewing and transforming the entire earth into His Kingdom through His Church.  The Church has embraced this mission, and it continues to do so today.

In our modern world, one of the obstacles we encounter is that so many people are obsessed with manufacturing and controlling everything, leading to an increase in feelings of depression, confusion, and loneliness despite material wealth and comfort. However, when God’s people truly believe and live as His chosen ones, centering their lives on Jesus and yielding to His divine providence, miracles are possible. These miracles may be extraordinary, like the healing experienced by Delia Knox, or they may be everyday occurrences that we often overlook, like a tiny seed growing into a mighty mustard tree.

The remarkable transformation Delia experienced after 22 years of being confined to a wheelchair is more than an inspiring story to be awestruck by.  It serves as a testimony to the power of God and what He can do through our faith and belief in Him.  But we can’t just focus in on those headlines about the end of the story with her cure.  That’s fast-forwarding through Delia’s journey of perseverance, struggling between faith and doubt, growing in trust and humility, deepening of compassion and hope that all preceded this profound moment where God showed out in an extraordinary way.

In the second reading, St. Paul emphasizes for us, we are called to always be courageous, walking by faith, not by sight.  This highlights the power of hope even in the face of devastation and despair.  Calling us to hold onto our faith in our loving God and trusting in His divine Providence at work, so we remain open to His wondrous plans, even those that remain hidden from our eyes.