The Healing Power of Christ
Scripture shows the importance of faith to those who are ill
A woman from my Bible study left a gift with a note attached on my desk in the Spiritual Care Department at Mercy Hospital. She said in the note that her Legion of Mary group made 240 rosaries of various colors and individually wrapped them for me to offer to patients as I made my rounds while visiting the hospital each day as chaplain. She remarked that in this small way she would be with me, through the Spirit, to bring hope and healing to God’s people.
In serving as a hospital chaplain, I often draw upon the wisdom I learned from Msgr. Richard M. McGuinness (1925-2006), a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, who taught a pastoral ministry class at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He told us, “When visiting the sick, be brief, be positive and be gone.”
The greatest therapeutic thing we can do for another human being is listen to them cor et cor (“heart to heart”) in a world where it often seems they are just another case, diagnosis or statistic. One-third of Jesus’ ministry was in healing. Throughout Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, there are signs that read, “Shhh, healing in process.”
A Call to Care
Outside the Holy Family Chapel at Mercy Hospital, there are 13 depictions of the healing ministry of Jesus by the artist Robert Picard. Each of us, through our baptism, is called to be an agent of healing, whether as a hospice social worker, oncology nurse, resident physician, hospital chaplain, substance abuse counselor, support group member, family member, etc. Medicine, art, technology and science can only take us so far; we must never underestimate the power of faith to bring healing and hope to others as we care for their physical, spiritual or emotional needs and accompany them on the journey toward wholeness. We must affirm the authenticity of every human being — the body, heart, mind, soul, will and spirit that stretch into what we were fully created to be.
I have two brothers who are physicians and a sister who is dean of a medical school. We believe we tread holy ground as we minister to people of different nationalities, races, creeds, colors and religious persuasions. All are children of God — imperfect children, as we all are. We often share notes to be of greater service to those entrusted to our care, humbly offering the gifts we have received to contribute in loving service. American psychologist Carl Ransom Rogers developed a technique known as Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR), something Buddhists call “offering loving kindness” and Christians describe as “loving your neighbor as yourself.” Whatever we call it, it enjoins that we must show complete support and acceptance by relating to others in a respectful, gentle and nonjudgmental way. Thomas à Kempis said, “Be at peace with yourself first, and then you will be able to bring peace to others.”
Because of sin, sickness, suffering and death have entered the world, but these are overcome through the resurrection of Jesus, who hears the cries of those in need, healing the sick and raising the dead to life. Jesus made himself poor that we might become rich. God has a preferential love for the sick. Jesus identified himself with the sick when he said he was “ill and you cared for me” (Mt 25:36).
“Jesus’ many healings clearly show his great compassion in the face of human distress, but they also signify that in the Kingdom there will no longer be sickness or suffering, and that his mission, from the very beginning, is meant to free people from these evils. In Jesus’ eyes, healings are also a sign of spiritual salvation, namely, liberation from sin. By performing acts of healing, he invites people to faith, conversion and the desire for forgiveness (see Lk 5:24). Once there is faith, healing is an encouragement to go further: it leads to salvation (Lk 18:42-43).”
— Pope St. John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio, No. 14
Healings from Scripture
The Book of Wisdom reminds us that God did not make us for death but for life — here and hereafter. Thus God formed humans to be imperishable. Death seems to be the most natural thing in life; everything dies — plants, animals, seasons — and human beings are no exception to the rule. Sinners experience death, which is an alienation from God, a rebellion, a separation. Life apart from God is death. Death of this kind is not part of God’s plan; it is the work of the prince of this world — namely, Satan. Jesus casts out sickness and death, the effects of original sin, which were associated with the powers of the devil and his demons. Sick people at the time were thought to be in the hands of Satan. By raising a 12-year-old girl from the dead and healing a woman who had been hemorrhaging for 12 years, Jesus demonstrates that he is more powerful than Satan, for he wrests people from Satan’s dominion and domination. Death is an essential part of life, but it is not the final word.
|Prayer for Caregivers|
Be present to us today
as we do the work of your hands.
as we care for those entrusted to us.
Grant us the skill
and the patience
needed to serve all we meet.
May we always be a compassionate
presence, a listening ear,
and a voice of reason
in the chaos that sometimes
envelops those we serve.
Help us to be beacons of light, hope,
and promise along the way.
And when the dawn of a new day
arrives, renew and refresh us
as we begin anew.
Source: Chaplain Daniel Doyon via the
National Association of Catholic Chaplains
St. Mark, in Chapter 5 of his Gospel, tells the very touching story of the daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the Capernaum synagogue, who was sick and at the point of death. Mark immediately sandwiches in another story about the hemorrhaging woman. Jairus was so helpless and desperate that he fell, as if in prayer, at the feet of Jesus, who turned to Jairus and said, “Don’t be afraid; just have faith” (v. 36). Then they journeyed to Jairus’ home to find a commotion — professional mourners, family members, relatives, neighbors and friends “weeping and wailing loudly” (v. 38). Mourning is one of the traditional rites of passage and customarily involves wailing, loud crying and flute playing — noises made so that all might know that physical death has occurred. In the midst of the mourners’ great distress and commotion, Jesus is calm and serene, telling the mourners, “The child is not dead, but asleep” (v. 39). They jeered, laughed and ridiculed Jesus, who gently took the young girl by the hand and softly and tenderly spoke to her, saying, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” (v. 41), and she immediately got up and began to walk. All in the room were astonished at the sight, and Jesus ordered her family to get her something to eat.
The woman suffering 12 years with a bleeding disorder and pitiful affliction gave Jesus the same homage. She searched out every single doctor of her day, had “spent all that she had” (Mk 5:26), and still her condition was not better. Not only was she weak, but she was penniless. The Book of Leviticus notes that a bleeding woman was considered ritually impure and therefore was cut off from worship of God and from fellowship within her local community, so in her desperation she secretly decided to stretch out her arm to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, hoping she would be healed. Her faith is remarkable. The moment she touched him, Jesus was well aware that power had “gone out from him” (v. 30). Jesus asked, “Who has touched my clothes?” (v. 30) She stepped forward in “fear and trembling” (v. 33) and fell at the feet of Jesus, telling him “the whole truth” (v. 33). Jesus addressed her and called her “daughter” (v. 34), thus indicating that she was a member of God’s family. Moreover, in the sight of everyone present, Jesus praised her great faith — faith that had brought about such a miraculous healing.
Leaning on Christ
Sickness, suffering and death are the great equalizers of life. They put us in contact with the harsh reality of human existence, and through them we understand our human limitations; we encounter our frailty, and we sense our own mortality. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Every illness can make us glimpse death” (No. 1500).
Sickness can create its own special temptations. On the one hand, we may be inclined to give way to anguish, self-loathing, despair and even rebellion against God as we suffer. On the other hand, suffering can make us stronger, better, more mature and more patient with others and ourselves. It can refine, purify and lead to an increase in holiness. Trust in the Lord is a key mantra for the spiritual life.
Trust in the Lord in all the circumstances of your life, but most especially at death. Jesus invites and challenges us to trust and walk in faith.
If we search the healings of Jesus repeatedly, we note that he rewards people’s faith as a vital role in their healing. For instance, to the Canaanite woman he said, “O woman, great is your faith” (Mt 15:28); to the blind man, Bartimaeus, he said, “Your faith has saved you” (Mk 10:52); to the single leper who returned to thank him, he said, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you” (Lk 17:19); and to the woman with a hemorrhage for 12 years, he said, “Daughter, your faith has saved you” (Mk 5:34).
One of America’s greatest preachers of the early 20th century was Baptist minister Harry Emerson Fosdick, who once said, “Fear imprisons, faith liberates; fear paralyzes, faith empowers; fear disheartens, faith encourages; fear sickens, faith heals; fear makes useless, faith makes serviceable.”
Let us place our confidence and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus and seek a cure. Let us reach out in prayer for those in need of the touch of the power of Jesus in their lives.
Let our plea be, “Jesus, I will trust in you no matter what.” Amen.
FATHER RICHARD S. JONES, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for 30 years, serves as chaplain at UPMC Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. He is the author of four books, including “Faith Lights the Way” (CreateSpace, $18).