February 4, 2018
First Reading: Job 7: 1-4, 6-7
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 147: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 9: 16-19, 22-23
Gospel: Mark 1: 29-39
Have you ever seen a faith-healer or exorcist in action? Although healings and exorcisms are activities of some charismatic Catholics, they are not part of the experience of most Catholics. Yes, Catholics do make pilgrimages to shrines like Lourdes for healing and candidates for sainthood have to be credited with miracles. But healings that are judged as genuine miracles for which there is no scientific explanation are very few. Some priests have been appointed by their bishops as exorcists, but their ministry is not exercised in public for the most part.
Why doesn’t the Church do what the Gospel of Mark portrays Jesus as doing–healing the sick and casting out demons? Why don’t miracles happen today in the numbers that they did in Jesus’ day? Why doesn’t Jesus heal the sick in our Churches as he did in the synagogues of Galilee? Is it because we do not have faith in Jesus’ power? Is it because we do not expect miracles? Is it because we depend too much on science and medicine and not enough on faith and prayer?
Of course, we Catholics believe in the power of prayer. We rely on the compassion of Jesus today just as the people of Capernaum did when they brought their sick and possessed to Jesus for healing and deliverance. The Church encourages us to pray for the sick. There is the Sacrament of the Sick for those who are seriously ill. In administering that sacrament, in the name of the whole Church, the priest prays for the healing of the person that he will anoint with oil consecrated for this purpose by the bishop. Still, the real purpose of the sacrament is to celebrate the supreme miracle that Jesus has worked–the great healing miracle that has already taken place. This miracle, of course, is that of the cross and resurrection.
The healings that are the subject of today’s gospel lesson were the foreshadowing of the miracle of the cross and resurrection. The crucified and risen Jesus offers us deliverance from the disease that has its grip on each of us: our selfishness and sin. That disease has the power not only to destroy us but it also can spread like an epidemic, infecting those around us. Jesus, however, has made it possible for us to defeat that disease. All we have to do is claim the healing that comes with faith in Jesus and by leading a life in accord with the ideals of the gospel. Once we begin our life with God in the company of Jesus, we will find ourselves becoming stronger–better able to overcome the power of sin that has infected us. Our healing makes its possible for us to be a blessing in the lives of our sisters and brothers instead of being a threat to their well-being and happiness. Don’t we have to admit that changing us from sinful and selfish people to people who live their lives not for ourselves but for God is a miracle–and a very impressive one at that?
Jesus did manifest the healing power of God in his ministry–as we heard in today’s Gospel. But these healings point to the great miracle of the cross and resurrection. The crucified and risen Jesus has healed our hearts broken by sin. Through his cross and resurrection, Jesus has bound up the wounds opened by our selfishness. Jesus offers us healing and deliverance. Indeed, Jesus has healed us–Jesus has cured us. We have experienced the miraculous power of God. We ought to be determined to hold on to our miracle. In the words of the psalmist: “Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good…the Lord heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”
Rev. Leslie J. Hoppe, OFM
Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP Distinguished Professor of Old Testament