The Old Testament associates the presence and work of God with the miraculous healing of the sick, the restoration of blind people, deaf people, and lame people to full health. God who is the creator and sustainer of all life brings renewal, healing, and mercy. Jesus’ ministry of healing then reveals that he accomplishes the work of God as he travels the roads of Galilee and Judea. In this, they are part of the picture of the one who is more than prophet – the Messiah who is the revelation of the heart of the Father – Emmanual, “God who is with us,” the “Word made flesh.”
The scriptures, Old and New Testament, also offer us a holistic picture of human identity, suffering and restoration. The miraculous healings occur in a context of forgiveness for sin, and liberation from the power of evil. We see the interconnectedness of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Such miracles also reveal the “personality” of the Lord. Jesus demonstrates his singular lack of egotism and his devotion to others. He seeks out the lost and forsaken and acts with compassion towards the suffering. His parable of the Good Samaritan captures this kind of tender care for one who has been abandoned and ignored by others. In a very real sense, we are all the man lying in the road, doomed to death. It is the Lord Jesus who lifts us from the dust and devotes himself to our healing.
The miracles show another critical aspect of the Lord Jesus’ ministry. When so many others ignored the sick or saw them as their illness, he saw them. He recognizes their personhood and responds to their individual suffering. In the case of the man born blind, no one paid any attention to him until Jesus ‘saw’ him. For 38 years, a man with infirmity hoped for healing at the Pool of Bethesda only to be ignored until Jesus took note and offered him healing. The leper comes to Jesus for healing knowing that he was “unclean” and cast out by the society around him. In healing him, Jesus touches the leper — a gesture that rendered Jesus unclean by the strictures of the law. But this touch demonstrates Jesus’ compassion and that he sees the person, not the illness.
Out of Jesus’ own ministry and example, the Christian community came to view the sick as more than those who need help. The faithful recognized their dignity and the contribution that faithful suffering makes to the communion of the Church. When St. Lawrence was commanded by a hostile Roman Magistrate to produce the “treasures of the Church,” the soon-to-be martyred Saint brought forward sick people and lame people, proclaiming them the “treasure of the Church.”
This Sunday, Feb. 11, is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick. It is a moment when the universal Church gives thanks for the witness of sick and disabled persons. They reveal to us our shared frailty, our dependence upon God and the summons to support one another with prayer and compassion. At the Lourdes shrine, the intercession of Our Blessed Mother had brought healing and restoration of body, mind and spirit. And through her own humble compassion, she teaches every generation of disciples to live in solidarity.
I invite us to join in praising the Lord for his healing, reconciling love. I invite us to pray for healing and strength for those who suffer from any kind of illness and infirmity, and I invite us to thank and pray for those who devote themselves to caring for sick persons. I am particularly grateful to the priests who serve as chaplains in hospitals and to the many doctors, nurses and health care professionals who demonstrate such selfless commitment and compassion.
May God give to each of us the healing we need and may our hearts fill with the Lord’s own compassion. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!