In today’s readings we see the theme of healing. It is a common theme, of course, in the gospels. A large percentage of the synoptic gospels describes healing miracles. In the 8th and 9th chapters of Matthew alone Jesus cures ten individuals, plus “many who were possessed by devils.”
In the Gospel of John we find the fewest miracles, but after each miracle Jesus gives great instruction. I was privileged to hear Scott Hahn helping at a retreat for priests, at which he expounded on the seven miracles of the Gospel of John. He associates each of these miracles with one of the seven sacraments.
Of these seven miracles, five are healing, including two resurrections from the dead. Of course the miracles culminate in Jesus’ own resurrection.
Today we hear healings described by Mark. Mark is the earthiest evangelist. I mean that in other gospels Jesus just gives the word and the miracle occurs. Sometimes he does not even see the person. Sometimes the person is almost a day’s journey away. But here in Mark’s gospel Jesus not only sees the person, he puts his fingers in his ears, touches his tongue and groans the healing word.
Perseverance in Prayer
What strikes me the most about this is Jesus’ groan. To me this means that praying for healing, for miracles, or for any favor of God should not be an easy thing. Praying for other people should be a regular part of our prayer life, and, like other aspects of our spiritual life, we should put our whole effort into it. I think of the scene where Jesus came down from the Transfiguration to find a crowd gathered around his disciples, who were unable to cast a demon out of a boy. Jesus cast the demon out and said: “This kind of demon can only be cast out through prayer and fasting.”
Often God wants us to pray for others, and He wants us to persevere in this prayer. I have read that at the end of World War II, when the Soviets controlled all of central Europe, the people of Austria undertook a prayer campaign. Ten percent of the people of Austria prayed a daily rosary, and this resulted in the peaceful withdrawal of the Soviets. While the rest of central Europe suffered for the next 40 years under Communism, Austria enjoyed neutral status. It was the only time the Soviets withdrew from a country peacefully until the revolutions of 1989.
Faith and Science
In our time, of course, people look to science for healing. There is nothing wrong with that: they did the same in Jesus’ time, and Luke himself was a doctor, according to tradition.
We see the limitations and the dark side of science, however, in our current crisis. It seems that the COVID virus was created in a laboratory. Also, it seems that medical personnel do not appreciate the need for COVID patients to have loved ones present while they are suffering in their hospital rooms. It is particularly frustrating for us priests to be turned away from visiting COVID patients who are dying.
There have been times when faith and science cooperated beautifully for the good of all people in a society. This is not one of those times. May we persevere in our spiritual lives, in our prayer and fasting, and strive to bring down God’s healing on individual people and on our world that needs healing.