Marcus Borg is quoted as having said, “More healing stories are told about him (Jesus) than about anybody else in the Jewish tradition.” We have only to read scripture to encounter the many healings. Yes, Jesus is a faith healer, but not the sort that might readily come to mind.
Jesus healed from the unique perspective of faith, i.e. a deep and abiding intimate relationship with Abba, his Father. Jesus does not claim the healings for himself, but defers to the Father. It is important for the gospel reader to recognize that Jesus’ healings are holistic. Jesus not only cures the physical problem – blindness, leprosy, lameness, deafness, or as in this gospel reading what appears to be epilepsy. Jesus’ healings are so much more –involving the whole person and beyond. They are holistic.
In this healing, the illness is cured and the person is healed.
Jesus calms the fears, the anxieties, soothes and anoints past experiences of guilty and the shame of being socially ostracized. Jesus unconditionally loves and forgives. In this case, Jesus heals the whole person, not just curing the physical ailment. The crowd fears that the boy has died in the process of ridding him of the “unclean spirit”. Not so, “…Jesus took him (boy) by the hand and lifted him up and he was able to stand.”
We can only imagine the relief, joy and gratitude experienced by the boy, his parents, family and community. The boy was made whole; he was able to ‘stand’ – a sign of wholeness, not solely a sign of curing. He was able to feel loved and lovable – no longer to be shunned and feared. The family is relieved of the guilt associated with a chronically ill child. The community blessed of its own shame and guilt. What must that experience have been like? Many of us can only imagine; praying and yearning for such an experience of curing and healing. Many of us know first hand exactly what that experience is like. To be loved by God / Jesus back to wholeness moves us to a new place and space of freedom. To be freed from the pain of illness while simultaneously being drawn deeper into intimacy with Love. For some of us, we may experience healing but not necessarily a curing of the ailment.
The holistic healing of the boy appears to be the meat of the reading. It is after all the first 13 verses. Certainly there is much to reflect on. I suggest the heart of the reading is found in the last 2 verses. “…his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it (the unclean spirit) out?’ He (Jesus) said to them, ‘This kind (of unclean spirit) can come out only through prayer.” What is this about? The apostles had performed miracles before, why not now? This was a holistic healing of body and soul. Jesus’ healings originate in the unique, abiding, unconditional loving intimate relationship with his Abba. Jesus lived, blessed and healed out of this relationship. Jesus was inviting his beloved disciples to more fully enter into their own intimate relationships with his Abba. It is not magic, it is relational. We grow to act out of our experiences. We react out of fear, lies, shame, guilt and ego. We respond out of love, truth, compassion, and inclusiveness.
My experience of Love changes, heals me. I do not heal or change myself. God/Love changes me, heals me.
There is no magic. There is no secret. Over and over again Jesus says “Your faith has healed you.” I am healed out of the unconditional abiding intimate Love of Jesus and his Abba as I enter into this relationship. As a Christian, as a fellow disciple, I too am invited to enter more deeply into intimacy with Jesus and his Abba. I am invited to be co-healer with Jesus. I am invited to participate in the healing and anointing of the wounds of fear, jealousy, blame, guilt, and all that divides me from those I love and those I fear. I as parent, spouse, child, clergy, physician, lawyer, civil servant, imprisoned, homeless, wanderer, free or captive, young or aged, man or woman - I am invited to live in prayerful relationship with the Spirit Who Is Love. There is no promise that I will be cured, but there is the abiding invitation to all to intimacy and healing, and faithfulness.
Sometimes I lament and moan:
“What did I ever do to deserve this?”
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