By Deacon Paul Rosenblum
At the end of Luke’s Gospel, he describes how Jesus commissions his disciples to go out to the world with the message of the Good News. He gives them the power to perform great miracles: driving out demons, healing the sick, speaking in new tongues, handling venomous serpents, drinking deadly liquids in safety. These would be the signs that Jesus has given the disciples the authority to preach and baptise in his name. And out they went, Luke tells us, performing these great miracles as they spread the Gospel.
We have all received a commission from Jesus, too, the exact same commission that those first disciples received. Now I can’t speak for you, but I’m pretty sure that I have never actually met a demon, let alone performed an exorcism. I haven’t miraculously healed anyone of a disease. I have never spoken in tongues. I have no great love for snakes, certainly not enough to handle the venomous kind, and I think it smart to avoid drinking potentially deadly fluids, at least not to excess, if you catch my drift. So sometimes I wonder, if I can’t do those things that the first disciples did, how good a disciple am I?
Reflecting on this, though, I realise that I am performing miracles. I say this not to boast, not to make myself into something that I am not. I say it because I believe that all of us in this wonderful ministry are miracle workers. They may not be spectacular miracles like the Lord himself and those first disciples did, but they are miracles all the same. Small miracles. That is what seafarers’ ministry is at its very core. It is a ministry of small miracles.
Why do I call it that? Think about what we do every day. Every time we meet and talk with a seafarer in our center or on board their ship, every conversation about their home and family, their work, their life at sea, every time we take the time to listen to them tell us about their joys and sorrows, we perform a miracle of healing by lightening their load, by letting them know someone cares.
Every time we transport seafarers for shopping or medical help or any other need, every time we console and pray with a seafarer who has lost a family member, every time we do anything that shows them that they are people, not just equipment on board their vessels, we perform a miracle of healing by treating them with the dignity they deserve.
Every SIM card we sell and every Wi-Fi connection we provide is an exorcism, driving out the demons of loneliness and disconnection from family and friends that often plague them. Seemingly small gestures, yes, but all small, yet very powerful miracles.
And I believe that this is also true: This flow of small miracles is not a one-way street. The men and women we meet perform miracles for us, too. I think about how often I smile when I am sitting in my office trying to figure out how I am going to get back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth again from Walmart in time to get all of the seafarers back on board their vessels before their shore leave expires, and I hear a seafarer in the next room talking to his family via Skype or FaceTime, not understanding a word of what is being said, but just knowing that there is a feeling of joy on both ends of that call, a feeling of joy in just being able to spend that brief time in conversation with loved ones.
That is a miracle of healing for me that cures me of the worry and anxiousness I am feeling. The greeting at the top of the gangway as if the seafarer and I are old friends even if we have never met before, the invitation to lunch on board, the smile and words of thanks on returning from a shopping trip, these are exorcisms that drive out the demons of frustration and futility that I, and I suspect you, too, sometimes feel. Seemingly small gestures, yes, but small and powerful miracles performed for our sake.
These odd days have certainly altered the way we go about this ministry of small miracles. But we persist as best we can, confident that social distancing and facemasks have no power to stop these small miracles from taking place. This ministry of small miracles is how the Lord has called us to show the world that we are his disciples. May he continue to bless us and strengthen us each and every day. Peace be with you.