Christ the Healer In Sacred Scripture
“Jesus said to them in reply, Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” - Matthew 11:5-6
The Cleansing of the Leper
A leper came to him [and kneeling down] begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean. - Mark 1:40-42
Since the nineteenth century the cause of Hansen’s Disease or leprosy has been researched and discovered, as well as the fact it can be easily cured if found early and that it is not easily transmitted from person to person. In the ancient world and indeed until the nineteenth century leprosy was considered to be any incurable skin disease, and attached to it was the fear of it being spread throughout the greater population. For that reason so-called lepers were forced to live isolated from society, often in leper colonies, and were required to ring bells when encountering others on the road who did not have the disease. Therefore, leprosy was a sentence of walking death and total expulsion from society.
The healing of the leper illustrates a common element in the scriptural encounters of Jesus with those who seek healing from him; that being the necessity of faith. Christ never forces the miraculous upon anyone, rather he heals in response to the cry of those who have faith in his healing power. “Prayer to Jesus is answered by him already during his ministry, through signs that anticipate the power of his death and Resurrection: Jesus hears the prayer of faith, expressed in words (the leper… the woman with a hemorrhage who touches his clothes).” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, article 2, number 2616)
Faith is a response of the total person (reason, will, emotions) to the presence of the divine. In Jesus the Eternal God invites us to be made anew, to come to full stature as beings of love; but this relationship by which we are healed of sin and death is never forced upon us, our response of faith is possibly the greatest act of freedom a human being can ever make.
Healing of the Hemorrhaging Woman
And a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years, who [had spent her whole livelihood on doctors and] was unable to be cured by anyone, came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stopped. - Luke 8:43-44
The healing of the hemorrhaging woman like that of the leper, involves a person who is isolated from society not because of some moral or ethical failure but because of a physical malady beyond their own power. In this case according to the Mosaic Law a person who had such persistent and uncontrolled bleeding was restricted in their involvement in the community. Also, like the leper she has faith in Jesus that he alone can cure her and remove the hurt, shame, and isolation of her disease. “He said to her, Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 8:48)
What is unique about her healing, which is also shared with the healing of the daughter of Jairus, is that too merely touch Jesus brings about healing. “And they ridiculed him, because they knew that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and called to her, ‘Child, arise!’ Her breath returned and she immediately arose.” (Luke 8:53-55)
Jesus is the presence of divine order and divine love, and the healing of human infirmities are a foreshadowing of his victory over death and the reconciliation of humanity with the Father.
Healing of the Paralytic
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, ‘Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?’ Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, ‘Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth’— he said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.' He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this.’” - Mark 2:5-12
The healing of the paralytic reveals the connection between human frailness, suffering, and illness with human sin. We know from the Book of Genesis that God created all things, he created all things as good, and he created man and woman to be stewards of his creation. What entered into God’s creation was the mystery of sin, resulting from the failure of human beings to exercise their free will for love of God and neighbor, and to turn inward in an attempt to usurp God’s dominion over all. In their attempt to become the masters of life, the mystery of sin reached its ultimate expression in the mystery of death. The images of God who were created for the Kingdom of Heaven, a kingdom of love and peace; took their broken images to the Shoel, the Old Testament term for the shadowy abode of the dead.
In the healing of the paralytic we see that Jesus the Son of God, the Son of Man, is the only one who can re-establish the beauty of creation and the bonds of love between God and human beings, and humans with each other. As Saint John Paul once shared in his reflections to a parish in Rome on this same Gospel of Mark:
Everything happens as Jesus has ordered. Jesus cures an incurable man. He works a miracle. By so doing he gives the proof that he has the power on earth to forgive sins. And as the scribes have affirmed that only God has this power, they should now draw the conclusion of what they themselves had sustained in words. Jesus reaffirms the presence of God among the crowd. Jesus reaffirms the divine power, proper to him, of forgiving sins. Jesus proves, at the same time, that the evil of sin is more dangerous and worrying than physical illness (in this case, serious and chronic disease). He is the Savior who has come in the first place to remove this serious evil. (Homily, To the Roman parish of Saint Gregory the Great in Magliana, 18 February 1979, Pope Saint John Paul II)
The miraculous healings of Christ must always be seen in their connection to his Cross and Resurrection. Jesus is the Divine Physician not merely because he can cure our bodily illnesses, but because he destroys death, the cosmic result of the misuse of our freedom. As Saint Paul said to the Corinthians, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Only he who was present when the Father created us, as John says in his Gospel can bring us life:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
The reign of sin was only temporary, for the darkness of sin could never overcome the light of Christ. In Christ the plan of God is fulfilled, that plan so eloquently expressed by Saint Irenaeus: “the only true and stedfast Teacher, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.” (Book V, Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus of Lyon)
We see how the result of sin is manifested in our lives, in our physical challenges, in our relationships with others and above all in our need to see through the eyes of faith the Savior of the world who invites us to a new life, in and through Him.
Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Savior; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state? (The Catechetical Oration, Saint Gregory of Nyssa)
The more we give honest reflection on our lives, the greater we will appreciate and have faith in the Glorious Resurrection,of Our Lord; where his light scatters forever the darkness of sin and death.
- Rev. David A. Fisher,