And he cured many who were sick with various diseases

Mark 1:34

Sickness is a part of the human experience. From time immemorial various forms of disease have affected human beings bodies and minds. The first reading and the Gospel reading draw our attention to the phenomenon of sickness and disease. Many of the Gospel stories relate to Jesus’ curing and healing of persons who were sick. Where ever he went people came or were brought to him to be healed: “they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.”

At some time in our lives we shall experience some form of sickness. Sickness and diseases remind us of the present of evil in the world. At times our actions are responsible for some of the sickness we undergo; at other times there is no personal responsibility. Sickness, depending on its harshness, can be a painful and devastating occurrence because it makes us impotent, robs us of life and destroys our bodies. It always has a negative effect on us. It is important that we learn to live with whatever form of sickness we will encounter in our lives.

It is God’s will that we enjoy good health. As such we should not see sickness as a personal punishment from God. God cannot be associated with evil. In the ancient world and even to this day many persons link sickness with punishment. This thinking was common in Jesus’ day and he refuted such concepts when he was questioned: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”(John 9:2-3).

The link between sickness and punishment was and continues to be an embarrassment for many people. This connection continues to cause many persons to be fearful of disclosing their medical condition to their families and friends. For some, sickness is an occasion of shame and it can be very humiliating for them. We should not be ashamed when we are sick; it is part of the human experience.

In Jesus’ time and at the present moment some diseases such as leprosy carry a social stigma. Persons living with HIV/AIDS know very well the pain of this stigma. This stigma alienated and continues to alienate people from their communities, reduces them to ‘things’, and robs them of their human dignity. One notes that in the Gospel Jesus has time for these persons.

What should we seek when we are sick; to be cured or to be healed?

Most of us stress the importance of physical ’curing’ and miss the significance of healing. A careful reading of the Gospel will show that Jesus places emphasis of healing of body and mind, “your sins are forgiven.” It is a healing that seeks restoration of the body and mind “your faith has saved you.”

“Curing” can be described as the restoration of normal bodily function. It removes the condition that gives rise to the illness. One can be cured without being healed.

Healing from the Gospel perspective is bigger than curing; it refers to a condition which restores a person to a meaningful life. Healing restores the individual to wholeness. The healing stories in the Gospel restore individuals to meaningful lives (the woman caught in adultery), release them from the burden and consequences of their sins ( the paralytic), restore them to the community( the ten lepers), cure diseases ( the woman with the issue of blood), and point to the coming of God’s kingdom.

Healing cannot be limited to the mere physical; it is concerned with the spiritual and social dimensions of the individual. It has an interest in any condition that robs us of a meaningful life. In today’s Gospel Jesus restores Peter’s mother-in-law to a meaningful life and she resumes her domestic duties. Jesus heals us so that we can serve our communities.

Healing is associated with peace of mind which comes as a result of the forgiveness of our sins. Forgiveness of sin brings us into a loving relationship with God and gives us peace. Healing in its broad context means peace of mind, peace with God and our neighbours, graceful acceptance of one’s condition, the ability to make the best of life given one’s present circumstance, happiness, joy and calmness. The healed person can say ‘it is well with my soul’.

Our diseases might be incurable, we might have to live with them for the rest of our lives, but we can be beneficiaries of God’s gift of healing.

Curing a disease does not make a person whole; healing a person does not necessarily cure the disease. In this regard death is a form of healing.

Whenever we experience any kind of loss be it caused by disease, death, divorce, separation or any other thing there is always the need for healing. From time to time in our lives we all experience some kind of loss; from this perspective healing is something we all need; we all need to be made whole.

When our loss is healed we no longer ask the question ‘why’, instead we ask “What does God want me to do in this situation?”

If we accept that healing restores to wholeness we will have to conclude that our nation is in need of healing. In every sector of our society there is brokenness; you cannot name any institution in our land that is not broken and fragmented- our families, homes, schools, social groups, churches, clubs, political parties, trade unions, villages and communities, work places and the like. Our island needs more that ‘curing’, it needs to be healed.

There is the social dimension of healing which has its challenges. How do we restore to the community persons who break the law and are imprisoned? How do we restore to the family a member whose behaviour has discredited his or her family? How do we restore relationships with persons who have broken our trust? Jesus’ healing ministry had a strong social outreach; he mingled and mixed with drunkards, women, prostitutes, publicans and lepers. He paid the price for this unique ministry. The healing ministry can be a dangerous enterprise for those who take it seriously. We must allow God to use us as his agents of healing in our communities.

Do you want to be cured, or do you want to be healed?  

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