For they were the more perfect among His disciples, who came to Him not only because of his miracles, but through His teaching also. The grosser sort the miracles attracted, but the better reasoners his prophecies and doctrines; and so they who were taken by His teaching were more steadfast than those attracted by His miracles.St.John Chrysostom, Gospel of Saint John, Homily XXIV, para 1, page, 130
To this day the grosser sort is attracted by miracles. I know people who spend their entire time posting miracles they’ve caught in photographs. It’s not that these miracles are untrue (most of them are simply the imagination running wild) but that the emphasis in one’s life is to become engrossed in such affairs to the neglect of the better part that Mary chose in the Gospel. Mary sat at the feet of the Lord concerning herself with His teaching, while Martha spent it on things that were of no benefit to her or the Lord.
People who engage in the running after miracles and private revelations run the risk of doing greater damage than Martha. For Martha busied herself with that which was obviously not of the Lord and plain for all to see. Even the most foolish uneducated heathen could see Martha is doing wrong. But the miracle hunter concerns herself with the behaviour she assumes to be holy but is far from it. The miracle hunter assumes herself to be engaged in great and noble things.
Around her house, you’ll find walls of icons. Around her neck are so many holy medals. Should she ever become lost, forget the search party. Hold up a giant magnet and you won’t be long locating her. She has so many medals that not even the worlds greatest life jacket would keep her afloat should she go overboard.
Note that icons and medals are not a bad thing. I’ve a wall full of icons in my kitchen. There are times when people come in and assume I’m a holy person when they see them. This is because we are attracted to outward appearances and unlike Christ do not see the heart of a man. When being interviewed for the permanent diaconate, a laywoman came with a priest into my kitchen. I could see that while the priest was not phased by the icons, the laywoman was amazed by them.
I could be wrong but felt that perhaps she thought I’d be a worthy candidate simply by that display alone. I never thought the interview to be thorough anyway. Were they not aware of my horrible sinful past? If they did we could have put to bed this nightmare earlier than expected. They say, “Who is worthy for such an office?” But I definitely was not.
Yes, unless we’ve got faith to go with our icons of what use are they? They also mean nothing to the devil who laughs at such displays that lack a proper spiritual disposition of soul. People surround themselves with holy medals and icons believing that somehow they will be protected by them while they live in a most unchristian manner. The same goes for those who concern themselves with the intellectual part of the faith. and entertaining books of all kinds.
He does the same with people who think they’re doing a great and holy thing by smothering themselves with the chasing of miracles. Miracles are mostly for unbelievers says, St.John Chrysostom. But believers should not be allowing themselves to become too entangled in such affairs so I believe.
It’s like what I said the other day about the woman who labels herself a theologian. She’s done her studies and now she’s a theologian. Tell her how fat she looks in that dress and then we will see what kind of theologian she is. I said this to demonstrate that some of us have the outward appearance of religion even intellectually possessing knowledge, while inside we are full of all kinds of spiritual diseases. A little testing, a little jolt of the spirits reveals a lot about us.
I speak as one full of disease too, but I feel it necessary to discuss this topic. People need to be shown some sort of light on the path to Christ. Enjoy a miracle should you witness one, but don’t become overly obsessed with it. Let us put on the armour of faith with the icons that we have a matching outfit. Would you walk into the presence of an important person without a matching outfit? That’s what you do when you chase miracles without repenting. Why walk into the presence of the Lord without the matching outfit? Let’s get for ourselves the right garment because if we walk into the feast of the Kingdom of God without one we will be thrown out of it.
As St.John notes above those of us more inclined to the practice of the virtues and teachings of the Lord tend to be more steadfast in the faith. But those of us who cling to miracles and the like are less likely to progress and remain in the faith.