“You came to make us whole again.”
Being healed, being cured
and changing one’s perspective.
If you read the first chapter of Mark’s gospel you will see that today’s story of healing took place shortly after last week’s gospel story. Jesus taught in the synagogue, commanded the unclean spirit to leave the man and returned to Peter’s home where he healed Peter’s mother-in-law. By the end of the day “the whole town was at the door”.
These stories along with next week’s gospel of the healing of the leper cause me to reflect on my own need to be healed, cured and to change my perspective.
Think back to a time when you were sick. At some point you might have thought you were never going to get better. Then one day you wake up and are surprised that you are. You can breathe again or the pain is gone. You are like Peter’s mother-in-law. Your illness has been cured.
On the other hand, perhaps you have felt like Job who laments of restless nights and months of misery. Perhaps an accident, chronic illness or simply the aging process leads you to wonder if God has abandoned you.
While you or I may never be cured of every malady, Jesus offers each of us healing.
This is where the change in perspective comes in.
The first line of our offertory song “Jesus, You Are the Healing” (#400) highlights this fundamental part of our Christian understanding of suffering.
It helps me see beyond my own day to day struggles and allows me to experience God’s healing.
A Prayer by Elizabeth Anne Stewart
All of us experience times of anxiety and anguish, but if “being troubled” becomes habitual, then we live in a state of captivity. Day after day, we allow ourselves to be shackled by negative thoughts and emotions; chained by resentments from the past, we are incapable of investing in the future.
At the same time, we miss the present moment because we are too consumed by the care of yesterday and tomorrow. In short, we are prisoners of our own bad news.
God invites us to be free, to let go of our burden and to trust in him. This does not guarantee that the stock markets will rally, the furnace will last another winter or one’s children will be accepted in the schools of their choice or that we will not experience suffering or pain. It does mean, however, that it is possible to live in freedom, regardless of the difficulties facing us.
Faith allows us to find peace in the realization that God is with us, no matter what, and to believe that joy is an option, even when life is complicated.
Set our hearts free, O God, that we may walk in your peace. Amen.
Last week’s weeks readings (Job’s lamentation and the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law) prompted me to think about healing and being cured. Here are two conclusions:
1. As the Son, God knows suffering first hand. As Father, God knows what it’s like to suffer when someone we love suffers.
2. While God may not “cure” every illness, God’s desire to heal is ever-present.
Today’s readings center on a specific illness: leprosy. I don’t know about you, but I’m reminded of one of those forms we are asked to fill out at the doctor’s office. I quickly scribble an x in the box under the heading “not applicable” and move to the next malady.
I am reminded of the book I just read. “Wonder” is the story of Austin, a boy with a face so deformed he lives separate from other children. Austin is home-schooled and chooses to wear an astronaut’s helmet whenever he goes outside. The difference between Austin and the leper in today’s reading is that instead of Austin screaming “unclean” to warn others, others scream to keep him at what they believe to be a safe distance. When he finally goes to school (in fifth grade) the children invent a game called "plague" to describe what might happen if they accidentally touch him.
Have you felt isolated, excluded, silenced or marginalized? Is there a part of your life that you want to cover in shame or pride? Don’t worry, these are rhetorical questions. I’m not asking you to check any boxes and hand this in.
For the second week in a row we are singing Stand By Me #633. A line buried at the end of the 2nd verse resonates with me. It is also the title of today’s article.
As followers of Jesus we are called to be the healing power of Christ that reaches out to the suffering.
Consider the words of Pope Francis:
“If this leper broke the law, Jesus did likewise by touching the man and cleansing him of the disease. The Lord’s example teaches us not to be afraid; to reach out and touch the poor and the needy in our midst.”