When you live in places that everybody calls Paradise -- Cape Cod and Vieques in my case -- the subject of miracles is seldom far from your thoughts.
So when I saw this photo – an iconic commentary on the papacy of Pope Francis – I realized that this rock star Pope had introduced a novel concept to international relations – the prayer summit.
Presidents Peres and Abbas embrace in the Pope’s Vatican garden.
But this was more than a breakthrough meeting. This was a miracle.
Way back in 1919, budding Israeli statesman David Ben-Gurion wrote:
“Everybody sees a difficulty in the question of relations between Arabs and Jews. But not everybody sees that there is no solution to this question. No solution! There is a gulf, and nothing can bridge it. We, as a nation, want this country to be ours; the Arabs, as a nation, want this country to be theirs.”
Fast-forward to June 8, 2014 -- just weeks after U.S.-sponsored peace talks between the two parties collapsed. Pope Francis has Israeli President Shimon Peres and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, in the Vatican garden observing every nicety toward each other short of smooching.
The photo of the three leaders is eloquent in validating a more famous utterance by Ben-Gurion in a 1956 television interview:
“In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”
We tend to think of miracles in terms of jaw-dropping occurrences that defy laws of nature. After all, the word comes down to us from the Latin miraculum – an object of wonder.
But a Cambridge University mathematician named John Littlewood had a different take.
He defined a miracle as an exceptional event of special significance occurring at a frequency of one in a million. He claimed that during the hours in which a human is awake and alert, he or she will see or hear one "event" per second – an event that might be either exceptional or unexceptional. Littlewood went on to assume that a human is alert for about eight hours per day. His calculations concluded that a person will, in 35 days, experience about a million events -- at least one of them a miracle by his definition.
According to Littlewood’s math, then, miracles are commonplace. You and I can expect at least one miracle every 35 days. Sort of a Miracle-Of-The-Month Club.
Perhaps we can even improve that number in our own lives. For example, people pray and miracles result, don’t they?
If we accept that two celebrated adversaries embracing in a garden is a miracle, we are tempted to say yes, miracles often are the result of actions we take to make them happen.
I, for one, have to come away thinking that man’s intercession can sometimes be as much responsible for miracles as God’s intervention.
In my next blog, "T-Shirt to T-Rex”