Morgan Freeman got really sick at the age of 16, pneumonia, and an abscess developed on his lung that burst, and he almost died, and he states that some would say that God saved him. "Believers think God communicates to us through miracles, that miracles are proof of the divine." In this final episode of National Geographic Channel's The Story of God, Freeman is exploring "what is luck and what is fate,to see how a belief in miracles can change history, and how faith can change lives, to achieve what appears to be impossible."
Freeman first visits with Alcides Moreno, who lived after falling 500 feet from a Manhattan building where he and his brother were washing windows in 2008. The platform they were on broke, and they fell 47 stories. Moreno survived after breaking 10 bones, a punctured lung, needing 43 pints of blood and plasma, and three weeks in a coma, but his brother died.
People tell him that he is a miracle, including the doctors. He has a hard time with that line of thinking because his brother, Edgar, died. He does believe that God saved him, but he struggles with why him and not his brother, and,"looks forward to finding out exactly what to do." He wonders what God's plan is for him.
Travel to Jerusalem brings Freeman to a celebration of Passover with a Jewish family, including the first Israeli female Rabbi, to learn about the miracles that happened to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt. Freeman points out that not all modern Jews believe in the miracles of Passover, but that these events still define them as a people, and that the deep well of tradition and moral strength has sustained them.
A trip to Rome lends to discussion with Monsignor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo to talk about how Catholic people believe that a person must perform two miracles after they die in order to become a saint. He explains that if someone claims that a miracle has been performed by someone, they will send an advocate to verify that a miracle has indeed happened, so it can take years or sometimes decades for one to become a saint.
A psychology professor talks to Freeman about how he thinks we often mistake random chance for miracles in this clip from the show.
"Nothing I'm saying here rules out the possibility of the divine.The fact that probability predicts certain things doesn't mean that there can't be divine intervention. But miraculous things that you think, 'It can't happen by chance alone,' they do happen, and they have to happen. It would be odd if they didn't. Because with six billion people in the world, there are so many opportunities for something unusual to happen. We would expect it to happen to some of them."
In ancient Rome, chance and gods co-existed. He speaks with archeologist Valerie Higgins, who talked about the old Roman practices of chariot racing and gambling, and how they would do rituals in order to get the gods on their side. But fate could be helped along with cheating. She says the Romans didn't have a faith, but they had fate.
The ancient Chinese religion of Taoism is introduced in this episode. They believe that our fates are set at birth. A life chart, similar to Astrology, is called a "fate calculator." But they don't believe that the life map is carved in stone, that miracles can happen. In the Chinese thought, everything is connected, and everything has a reason for why it occurred.
Freeman says the human mind can have a hidden power to unleash a miracle.
Cairo is visited again, and this time, Freeman learns about Islam and their belief that healing and medicine go hand-in-hand with the will of God. He visits one of the oldest hospitals in the world , where patients would come- hoping to be healed both by medicine, and a divine intervention from God. "Medicine as a whole was seen as the conduit of the will of God," the physician Ahmed Baghad explains.
Tom Renfro is a practicing physician from Norton, Virginia. He was diagnosed with unusual form of lymphoma, which he was supposed to die from in a matter of months. Candy Gunther Brown is a professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University. She is studying Renfro's case and whether faith and prayer can improve medical outcomes. She talks to him and learns that he didn't have medical intervention at the time of his diagnosis, and that his church body prayed with him in an intense weekend prayer. His tumors continued to grow, and he was dying. He explained that God then told him that it was time to go to the hospital and get treatment. The mass of tumors dissipated over the course of 24-48 hours. He said that it was a miraculous change that started as they gave him the infusion that was only supposed to slow the process of the lymphoma- that it wasn't designed as a cure.
Freeman wonders why Renfro was healed, when so many people who pray for healing don't make it. He believes that so much of what we think of as miraculous starts in the mind.
In India, Buddhist tradition is explored, and Freeman learns that Buddhists believe that years of mental training, and showing love and compassion to others can free them from suffering. Freeman's guide explained that the real miracle is transforming the human mind.
"I used to struggle to make sense of miracle stories. How oceans could be parted, how it was possible to walk on water, but I think I was missing the point. To believe in miracles is to believe there is more to life than meets the eye, to accept there could be something that connects us, that unites us," Freeman concludes the episode and the series. "I believe we should believe in miracles because miracles however you define them, give us hope. They drive us to create reality out of possibility."
Have you experienced a miracle? Let us know in the comments!