‘He healed many who were sick with various diseases’ (Mark 1:32)

It’s winter, and this means that sickness is all around us. We all get sick, and we all know and love people who get sick. It has ever been thus. And it was even more so the experience of people among whom Jesus lived and walked and exercised his ministry.

St. Mark’s gospel tells us that Jesus’ fame was constantly spreading, practically from the moment of his baptism. And primarily, Jesus’ fame arises from his astonishing ministry of healing the sick. It’s tempting for us to be envious of those crowds who followed Jesus around and saw him make blind people see and deaf people hear and paralyzed people walk. We think to ourselves that any doubts we might have about Jesus would dissolve if we were able to witness such miraculous events.

Miracles like that still happen. Through prayer and laying-on-of-hands and anointing with oil, people are being healed of back pain and cancer, headaches and heart disease, and we give thanks for these wonderful signs of God’s victory over the forces of sin and death. The problem is, not everybody is healed. So we’re confused. It seems like God is playing with our emotions for his own amusement, healing some and not others. What could God be thinking’?

Once again, we’re tempted to be envious toward those who could grasp the hem of his garment. But, even if we could somehow magically transport ourselves to that time and place, we would soon be disappointed. Mark tells us how Peter’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and Jesus “took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her.” But Peter’s mother-in-law eventually got sick again and died. The same goes for everyone whom Jesus healed.

In order to understand the experience of miraculous healings, it helps to see them from the right point of view. Mark, in particular , wants us to know Jesus only as we know him crucified and risen, and ourselves as participating in that dying and rising. From this perspective, we can look “back” and see all extraordinary healings not simply for what they are in themselves, but as anticipatory glimpses of the permanent healings secured for us on the cross. Miraculous healing cannot be conjured up “on demand. ” But God has bound himself to the sacraments as “sure and certain” means of grace. In the sacraments, we leap ahead to that tune when our redemption is complete, when all pain, disease, fear and misery are banished.

Look It Up

Healing and health are mentioned in several of the psalms. See 6, 30, 41, 60, 103, 107, and 147.

Think About It

The need and desire for healing are perhaps most often experienced as physical, but they can also be emotional or spiritual. What is your need for healing? Have you allowed Jesus to minister to that need through his body, the Church?