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3.4 Jesus’ resurrection and miracles
Did Jesus really make the miracles told in the Gospel? Has he really risen? Here is what Pope Benedict XVI said in the general audience of April 15, 2009: “Consequently, it is fundamental for our faith and for our Christian witness to proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as a real, historical event, attested by many authoritative witnesses. We assert this forcefully because, in our day too, there are plenty of people who seek to deny its historicity, reducing the Gospel narrative to a myth, to a “vision” of the Apostles, taking up and presenting old and already worn-out theories as new and scientific.”
In the words of the Pope the term “historic” is ambiguous: if we understand it in the same way as we consider Giuseppe Garibaldi a historical figure, we should conclude that believing in the resurrection of Jesus requires not an act of faith, but a forced assent, in the same way we cannot allow ourselves not to believe that Giuseppe Garibaldi existed. But “historical” can also mean “of historical significance”, that is “capable of having effects on history”; in this sense any novel is also historical, because it is able to arouse concrete effects in the people who read it, who are historical figures. However, the context of the Pope’s speech suggests that he refers to the first sense of the word “historical” that we have referred to.
After knowing metaphysics, we understand that applying the term “real” to something does not increase its concreteness. The knowledge of the three main ways of thinking, metaphysical, anti-metaphysical and practical, leads us at this point to adopt practical thought as the best tool for thinking about the resurrection. We can therefore say that Jesus is “really” risen, but meaning the term “really” not in opposition to dreams, fairy tales, fantasies, since reality itself can be considered a dream, but in opposition to what is not capable to be appreciated with practical effects in our lives.
We can ask ourselves: but then does resurrection depend on our putting it into practice? In doing so, however, we would fall into a new metaphysics, that is, the metaphysics of our practice, which would become the source of salvation for everything, even for the resurrection of Jesus. Instead it is a matter of understanding that practicing something does not mean making it real, but relating to it in the way that today appears to us to be the best. We do not save the resurrection by putting it into practice, nor does it save us in a metaphysical sense. The term “salvation” itself contains a metaphysical, totalizing temptation. Today, instead, we find it better to say that the method of practicing appears to us better and, once this method is adopted, a Christian can realize that actually even God himself has always related to him in relative, practical, not absolute ways.
After this, it will be easy to deduce that it makes no sense to ask whether miracles happened in a way independent from believing. The statements of the doctors cannot make a healing “real”, because saying “real” does not mean anything clear. It would be like thinking of understanding a thing better if they explain it to us in Chinese. When doctors say that a person who could not heal is healed, actually they have not demonstrated anything. In fact, when we face unexplainable events, science refers to research and faith refers to choice; in both cases the need to stop on a definitive conclusion is disappointed. The insistence on doctors’ statements is a dishonest effort to lighten the weight of the choice of faith, trying to steal some support from science, asking it for what it cannot give.
Why then does the gospel tell about miracles? It tells them not to testify scientifically, historically the existence of inexplicable events (it could not, even if it wanted to), nor to ensure that believers can comfort themselves by stealing scientific support from it, but to say that God is greater than the human mind and is able to accomplish what man is not even able to imagine. This actually already applies to any person. What does it mean to be God then? The greatness of God is not in the ability to break the laws of nature, also because actually we don’t even know what breaking the laws of nature means, but in the fact that he offers the possibility of relationships capable of being appreciated practically as superior to those possible with the other people of this world.