Can God really do anything? For most people, it is asked in a deeply personal way: “Can God heal my mother’s cancer?”
“Is God able to change the heart of my rebellious son?” “Can God heal my broken marriage?” For Maurice Blumberg, these questions included “Can God bring a young Jewish man to a living faith in Jesus Christ?” “Can God reunite a son with his missing father who had disappeared from his family?” “Can God bring alive a faith that had almost died?” “Can a man experience God’s love in the midst of his wife’s illness and death?” The answers to these questions are a story he loved to tell again and again.
Maurice’s Story. I was born in 1938 into a Jewish family from New Jersey and grew up to be a hard-working, somewhat shy young man. My parents separated when I was eight years old, and when I was in my last year of high school, my father disappeared; he contacted us a while later from Miami, Florida. In my senior year of college, he disappeared again. As a result, I was pretty much on my own. The synagogue taught me the Ten Commandments and the need to honor God, and I had heard a little about Jesus from friends at school. I believed in God, but as far as I could tell, God was in heaven doing his thing; I was on earth, trying to do my thing.
Faith Comes to Life. When I was twenty-three years old, I went to New York City on a business trip. It was my first trip to New York, and you’d think I would have been dying to experience the night life—the bright lights, the music, the pretty girls. Inexplicably, I stayed in my room at the YMCA and read the Bible. The best “logical” answer I can offer is that because of my shyness, because I knew I shouldn’t go looking for trouble, I decided to stay in my room. And because there wasn’t any TV there, I picked up the Gideon Bible that was in the dresser, opened it to the Gospel of Matthew, and began to read.
As I read, I experienced an inner conviction—something that went beyond an intellectual understanding—that everything I was reading was the truth. Jesus was who he said he was: the Jewish Messiah long awaited by my people, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. The poor in spirit were the blessed ones (Matthew 5:3); Jesus did come to die for our sins (Luke 24:46-47); the greatest gift is love (1 Corinthians 13:13); and it was right to pray “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). For that whole week, I soaked myself in the truth reading the entire New Testament, and by the time my business was done in New York, I had come to believe in Christ as my Savior and Lord.
Something else happened that week which really convinced me of the Lord’s power and love. One evening, as I was taking a little walk around the Y, I went into a room where some older men were playing Bridge. My eyes fell on one man in particular: my father!
He had disappeared about six months earlier from Miami, and of all the places he could be, and of all the places I could be at that time, we ended up in the same room. I went to him and gave him a big hug. There was no resentment or anger in my heart. It just seemed natural for me to be reconciled with him. Later that night, I prayed, “Lord, you can do anything, even bring an estranged father back to his son in the middle of New York City.” I was so grateful to God and awestruck by his power.
Over the next couple of years, I continued to read the Bible and began to attend Catholic Mass. I loved the prayers, even when they were in Latin and I had to follow along in English in the missal. Like Scripture, the Mass spoke the truth to my heart, so I began meeting with the parish priest where my new wife and I were living, and, as a sort of gift to my wife, I was baptized on her birthday in May of 1964. As the priest poured the water over my head, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was completely forgiven of every sin I had committed, and that I was entering the kingdom of God. All my guilt was gone, and I knew in a deeper way that Jesus loved me and died for my sins. It was one of the most joyous days of my life, because I knew that I had become a new creation; I would never be the same.
Overcoming Dryness. At twenty-six years of age, everything seemed to be falling into place for me. I was happily married, had two beautiful children, a secure job, and was newly baptized. Over the next several years, however, things began to dry up as I let the demands of work and family overshadow my life with God. My Christian life consisted of going to church every week, trying to obey the rules of my faith, and helping out as a lector and CCD teacher in the parish. These were all good things to do, but after a while there was very little liveliness in them because I had grown distant from the Lord.
I began to recognize this as I found myself getting more irritable and impatient, both at work and at home. But I didn’t know what to do. Finally, I simply cried out to God: “Is this all there is? Is this all I’m supposed to expect?” I began looking for more, going to various lectures and meetings in my parish, reading more Catholic writings. But I still felt dissatisfied.
The first signs of change came when I heard about a small group of men and women in the parish who met once a week to pray and read Scripture together. I knew a couple of them and was impressed with how joyful and peaceful they seemed—not perfect, but content and stable. I decided to join them. These times together were very uplifting, and my faith began to come alive. I benefited by hearing people talk openly about their faith, their struggles, and their victories. They prayed for each other and for others in the parish. They encouraged one another and spoke about their “prayer life,” a time they set aside each day to sit quietly with the Lord, read Scripture, and thank him for his love.
As I established a time to pray every day and continued to meet with my new friends, I noticed a change. Through prayer and the encouragement of brothers and sisters in the Lord, I was developing a deeper relationship with Jesus. The times of my conversion and my baptism were profound experiences of God’s love and were very special to me. Now, my life with Christ was becoming more consistent. I began to want to spend time with Jesus in prayer, to bring my questions, my worries, and my sins to him. Scripture came alive to me as I learned more personally who Jesus is and what he came to do. The Mass began to take on deeper dimensions as I joined with others to worship Christ and receive his Body and Blood. Each prayer of the liturgy made more and more sense, and I prayed with a greater love and gratitude than I had known before.
As I came to know Jesus’ love in a personal way, I saw longstanding patterns of sin melt away. My irritations at work and at home slowly diminished. I started to take control of the fears and insecurities that used to keep me bound. I was freer to speak the truth lovingly with my family. Of course, I still wasn’t perfect; my wife and children could attest to that! But where before my sins caused me to feel guilty, now I was at peace as I repented, commended my heart to the Lord, and saw changes taking place.
Faith Tested and Triumphant. About four months after all this began, my faith received a real test. My wife (who was diabetic) broke her ankle, and while she was in the hospital, she had a bad reaction to an insulin injection and went into a coma. Two weeks later she died. Yet even in the midst of this tragedy, I was not alone. People from the parish group were a marvelous support, and, despite my grief, I continued to experience God’s love. It wasn’t easy, but somehow, in the core of my heart, I knew I could trust in the Lord and his ability to help me and my family deal with our loss. I found great comfort in prayer and at Mass and was able to handle each struggle as it arose. As I prayed, God helped me to know how best to care for my children and continue in my life with him.
Many years later, I could look back and say that there is nothing God can’t do. He brought me to know his love when I wasn’t even looking for it; he reunited me with my father; he gave me hope and peace when I lost my wife; he always had his hand on my life. Even during those times when I wasn’t interested in him, times when I was caught up in sin, God never stopped working to bring me to him. I came to know that Jesus lived in me. He was always there to forgive me, to heal me, and to show me his love.
Can God really do anything? The answer is a resounding “Yes.” He especially likes doing the hardest things, like changing human hearts, healing a broken heart, giving hope to the hopeless, and bringing joy where there is no joy. He did these things—and so much more—for me. And if he did these things for me, he can do them for anyone.
Maurice Blumberg (1938–2021) was the Director of Partner Relations for The Word Among Us magazine’s ministry to the military, prisoners, and women in crisis.