18th Sunday A
How Are You?
Once, when Jesus tried to get away, a large crowd followed him leaving him without the rest he needed. Looking at them all he felt compassion for them and began to heal their sick and handicapped. He had brought God’s unconditional love into our world with him. Compassion for the sick released God’s love and became his default position as he reached out to cure them so they could get on with their lives. The sick and handicapped were deemed by the scribes and Pharisees to be sinners and God was punishing them accordingly.
They were ‘unclean’ and were required to observe social distancing from those who were healthy and righteous. That, however, never stopped Jesus from doing something that was forbidden: touching them tenderly. He understood the power of human touch. Medical practitioners know that touch is at the heart of all healing. “Jesus touched the sick, took them by the hand, and laid his hands on them,” wrote South African theologian Albert Nolan – Jesus Before Christianity, p.31. His humanity and mission compelled him to identify with sick and shunned alike and restore them to where God intended them to be.
Jesus saw in these people not sin or guilt but “woundedness, brokenness, confusion, fear and a sense of lostness” wrote Albert Nolan – Jesus Today, p.80. He didn’t try to convert them to his cause. He simply healed them out of compassion and love but without strings attached. Jose Pagola writes, “The sick Jesus met were blind, paralysed, deaf and dumb, people with skin diseases, the mentally ill. Many were incurable, abandoned to their fate, and left without means of earning their living; they hobbled through life as beggars, constantly confronted with misery and hunger. Jesus saw them lying prostrate by the roadside, at the village entrance, or in the synagogues, pleading for pity from passers by” – Jesus, p.158.
Jesus would approach and heal them without distinction or exception. He loved them one and all because God his Father loved them unconditionally. His compassion and forgiveness had a powerful effect on people who had been told by the religious righteous that they were sinners and guilty before God.
Our modern distinction between physical and psychological or spiritual healing was unknown to Jesus’ world. “Both healing and illness are to be understood holistically – as doctors today are rediscovering” – Jesus Today p.76. Jesus’ belief in them awakened their faith and trust in him. Their acceptance of his belief in them gave them healing and forgiveness simultaneously. He healed the paralytic who had been let down through the roof by declaring, “Your sins are forgiven….pick up your stretcher and go home” – Mark 2,11.
Feeling unclean and sinful was almost second nature to the sick. They were prime material for Jesus’ mission of healing and forgiveness. Things may not be all that different today. When I drag my worried self along for a medical scan at my GP’s request and discover I’m okay, I come home with a light step, a song in my heart, hope for the future and a sense of gratitude to God. Something spiritual, holistic and intangible has happened. Does Jesus still heal today?
Fr. QQ – 7/29/2020