B Cycle – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 21
We do not know how long the man in this gospel was deaf or had that speech impediment. All we know about him is people brought him to Jesus begging him to lay hands on him and heal him. Did you ever pray fervently for God to heal someone you know and as time goes by your prayers change in intensity even to the point of begging and bargaining? We will do desperate things for those we love to have their health restored.
Why did Jesus take him aside to lay hands on him and why does he tell them not to talk about this healing? It was not the first miracle performed by Jesus and it will not be the last time he heals anyone. But more to the point, how can someone who has been healed keep their joy inside? If you were healed, you would shout it from the roof tops, dance for joy amid the church and tell everyone you encountered. But would that proclamation convince anyone God is a miracle working God? Those who witnessed Jesus perform miracles or listened to someone who was healed did not believe. Remember the story of the man who was blind from birth whom the Pharisees expelled from the temple because he claimed Jesus healed him.
Healings happened and the gospels record many of them and healing by God happen today because people do believe in God’s healing power. They do believe Jesus’s words in the upper room when he said we, “…(we) would do the works he did and far greater.” The disciples certainly did after the resurrection and all those who formed the first century churches believed and prayed for healing. Irenaeus, one of our earliest Church fathers wrote how he “considered healing a natural activity of Christians as they express the creative power of God given to them as members of Christ.” Healings by the prayers ofChristians happen then and now because they believed as members of the Body of Christ, they had access to the power of God.
On our parish website (www.basilthegreat.org) there is a live stream and podcast titled “Miracle Monday’s” where ordinary people are recounting healing that happened because of prayer. The stories are important because they reveal a simple truth, the Kingdom of God is still here, and God is still the God who identified himself to Moses as the God who heals.
Healing has a tremendous impact on people’s ability or desire to encounter more of God’s grace, more of his blessings, more of his presence. Healing opens unbelievers to consider the possibility that God can change their hearts and bring to them peace, joy, and the fullness of life he promises all of us who believe.
We do not have any record of how this man who was deaf and had a speech impediment responded to his healing. He may have been like the one leper who returned to Jesus to give thanks or like the 9 who never did. How did those who know him respond to his healing is another thing that is not recorded. The gospel has us focused on Jesus quietly responding to a request of people who loved this man. I can imagine how they joined the celebration of his healing. I can imagine how they became witnesses, telling everyone about the response of God to a need. Others who heard about it may not be convinced about his hearing. They may have concluded his hearing and speech would have returned naturally over time.
Is this just a gospel story about Jesus or is it a story we all can experience by our boldly praying for God to heal. Do we have the courage to pray for others to be healed? Do we believe we can tap into the power of God and boldly pray for others to be healed? Are we ‘holy” enough to have God respond to our prayer, after all we are not saints? We need to realize it has nothing to do with our state of grace but instead it has everything to do with how much God desires for us to experience his love and compassion.
John Cassian, a monk, and disciple of John Chrysostom, said “the works of healing are not accomplished by the merit of the individual but by the compassion of Jesus Christ and by the grace of the Holy Spirit.” This should embolden us because God’s ability to heal does not depend on our merits or worthiness, all we need is faith and belief God can and does heal today.
The truth is we need to be bolder in our prayers and we like Jesus should not make a show of it but do it expecting God to act.