This Sunday, we celebrate the grace and wonder of healing. A large, visible aspect of Jesus’ ministry was His healing of physical infirmities—He healed Simon’s mother-in-law of the fever that had confined her to bed; and He healed lepers, the lame, the blind and those suffering from all kinds of illnesses as He went through Galilee.
More importantly, today’s gospel reminds us that His Divine nature gave Him power over evil as He cast out devils from those plagued with this terrible condition.
At a time that global headlines scream of the more than 103 million who have contracted the COVID-19 virus and the more than 2.23 million who have died of it, the search for and production of effective vaccines and viable treatments offer hope to the world. Millions more suffer from other types of illnesses, some for which no cure has yet been discovered.
It is important now, perhaps more than ever, for us to remind ourselves of certain truths about illness and about healing.
In the first instance, sickness and infirmity of any kind are not punishments visited upon humanity by a vengeful or uncaring God. Our loving Father wants us to be happy and to enjoy the life that He has given us.
His love does not encompass the desire to see His children in pain or born with conditions which make it impossible for us to be as productive and fulfilled as possible.
Nevertheless, from the beginning of time, humanity has experienced illnesses or disabilities of one kind or another. In our own time, anxiety and depression afflict the young and the old alike, particularly but not only because of the ‘lockdowns’ imposed by governments to curb the spread of COVID-19.
In the midst of our suffering, we wonder why God is ‘doing this to us’. We complain and often feel resentment, anger and even despair.
The Church teaches us that we should join our suffering to the suffering and supreme sacrifice that Christ made for us. This is not at all easy for us to do unless we implore the grace and mercy of our God.
None of us, if we are completely honest, welcomes suffering. The admonition that suffering makes us stronger, tougher and more understanding and empathetic towards others offers little comfort.
Our faith in the compassion and perfect love of our Saviour for us and our trust in His desire to see His people free of every form of malignancy and pain are now called into question. It is only when we consciously and continually cultivate a close and meaningful relationship with Him that we can turn to Him for the wonder and grace that He wants to pour out on us.
We must also recognise another truth—that He also works on Earth through others. The power to heal human beings of physical, psychological, and spiritual illness comes from God Himself.
His gifts, poured out into the minds and hands of practitioners of the different fields of medicine and into His clergy and lay people are visible and tangible evidence of His presence with us.
We do not, of course, deny the existence and persistence of evil in the world and the delusion that it presents as an escape from the travails of life. If we fall into its trap, we destroy ourselves, others and our environment. We inevitably suffer the loss of our own souls and open ourselves to an agony that never ends.
The Christ who healed the sick and cast out devils is waiting for us to turn to Him in every circumstance of our lives. He understands the human condition because He once assumed the human form Himself, though He never assumed our sinfulness.
His perfect and unchanging love, His mercy and healing are ours for the asking.