59. HEAL THE SICK PEOPLE. Source of health

Source of health

1. God´s word is source of  life: “life was in her” (Jn 1, 4), it is “source of living waters” (Ap 7, 17), source of health, word that heals. Annunciating the word, Jesus heals the paralytic (Mk 2, 1-12). He teaches and heals (Mt 4, 23). The ordinary or extraordinary recoveries that Jesus carries out are signals of the kingdom of God (Mt 11, 5). The disciples are sent to do the same: “Let you heal sick persons, resurrect dead, clean lepers, throw away demons” (Mt 10, 7-8). Now then, questions arise in a society that claims for itself attention and care of the sick persons: Which relationship is there between Gospel and health?, what do we understand like health?, which relationship takes place between God´s word and recovery?, how do we understand the word of Jesus that says: heal the sick people?, how do we confront sickness?

2. According to the Health World Organization, the health is a state of full physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not only the absence of sickness or disease. In the western culture, health fundamentally consists in “to be well” (good body running, vigour, distinction, exuberance, performance) and also in “feeling oneself well”. Nevertheless, we live in a “medicalized society”, that takes us to seek in the medication the solution of  all the problems. At the same time, it exists a “humanizing stream”, that incorporates the notion of health to all the dimensions of the person. We then talk about physical, psychic, mental, social, relational, moral, spiritual

3. In the past, to talk about the action of the Church in the field of the health and of the sickness, a clear distinction between the care activity and the religious activity was established. The first one was carried out by doctors and care agents. The second one was fundamentally of sacramental type. In certain way, the rite of the anointment was juxtaposed to the healing action. Nevertheless, the health offered by the Gospel is not reduced to a rite, it reaches to all person’s dimensions. Jesus acts there where life seems to be threatened, diminished and, even, spoiled. “He comes so that they have life and a plentiful life” (Jn 10. 10). Let us see.

4. In first place, sickness must be confronted immediately. It is of common sense: “Go to the doctor, since you need him” (Sir 38, 12). Sickness is a bad thing, it is bad to be sick; so that, Jesus goes by healing (Acts 10, 38). It is not necessarily a punishment from God, like Job’s friends think (Jb 5, 17-18). It is something inherent to the human condition. They place our fragility before us: “The years of our life are seventy or eighty, if there is vigour” (Sal 90). Jesus undoes the prejudice that links in an unavoidable way sickness and sin (Jn 9, 3)

5. It is not easy to get into the world of the sick person. It is necessary to proceed with caution. Like the Levite and the priest, before the wounded man found in the way, we can make a detour, to address the sight to another place, to be in a hurry. But we can do what the Samaritan did. He stops, finds out what are his needs, bandages his wounds, puts oil and wine on them, charges him on his own mount, takes him to an inn, takes care of him. The parable of the Samaritan (Lk 10, 29-37) shows that someone without a religious card can really accomplish the Gospel

6. The data about the sickness belong to the sick person privacy. If he allows us, in the dialog everything may show up: first symptoms, analysis, diagnostic, treatment, improvement, worsening of his state, personal, familiar and professional worry too. Everything may be placed in the context of the prayer that accompanies the fight against the sickness. The prayer wraps the action. The spiritual part accompanies the material part.

7. Sickness is a hard and anguished situation. The sick person feels his being’s fragility, that so far he believed firm and safe. The sickness menaces to destroy all we have and all we are. The sick person is a man attacked in the deepest of his being. It is not easy to place oneself in his place. The illness can provoke diverse reactions: Why is this for me? Why this illness? What have I done to deserve this? Amidst the confusion, rebellion before God may emerge, the reaction questioning the sense of life (Jb 3, 11). The sick person reactions are a relief. A welcome and understanding attitude is required.

8. Sickness may take the sick person to keep an exclusive attention to himself. His horizon gets smaller. Only some movements or gestures are possible for him. He is in a dependency situation. He changes his relationship with the others. He perhaps suffers of feeling himself a burden. Or because he cannot share what is happening to him: “That who comes to see me talks about futile business” (Ps 41). Sickness duration may originate the lengthening of the visits. Jesus identifies himself like the sick brother: “I was sick and you visited me” (Mt 25, 36). In the sickness everything is open: old relationship problems may appear, a reconciliation may take place.

9. Sickness places a crisis in the heart of the family, that may divide or unite it more. The sick person can neither be understood nor attended without the family. It is necessary to assess the family roll and to promote the appropriate help so that the family may overcome the crisis that the illness means. The possibility to talk openly about problems and difficulties caused by the illness lightens the suffering for the sick person as well that for the family.

10. The Gospel offers a healthy and purified relationship with God, a relationship in trust: “in everything God works for the good” (Rm 8, 28). The experience of his presence is healthy. The sick person may ask himself: What does God say about my illness? What is he doing with it? Really, there are not easy answers. So, it is necessary to pray. Healthy relationship with God, specially confronting the illness and the death, requires a constant purification. We easily project our threats, wishes, thoughts. And we are not in contact with Him such as he is (Jb 42, 7. 13 – 17). It is better not to know than to risk false answers.

11. In the precarious circumstances of his time, the disciples apply an elementary recovery: “they anointed with oil many sick persons and the healed them” (Mk 6, 13). In the letter of Saint James it is said: “If any one is sick, let him call on the elders of the Church. They shall pray for him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer said in faith will save the sick person; the Lord will raise him up and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven”, “the prayer of the upright man has great power, provided he perseveres” (St 5, 14 – 16). The prayer made in faith exclude the magic. It means a living relationship with the Lord

12. As the Council says, “with the anointment of the sick people and the prayer of the priests, all the Church entrusts to the patient and glorious Lord, so that they are relieved and saved” (LG 11; see SC 73), “the man, when he becomes gravely sick, needs an special grace from God, so that, dominated by the anguish, his mood does not fail, and whenever submitted to the test, his faith does not decay” (RU 5). In this way, pain before the illness and the death becomes human, id est, with peace, with hope. Living it so, the sick person evangelizes from his sickness.

13. John´s evangel presents several recoveries. They are “signals”, id est, “actions which mean or symbolize deep truths” (Dodd, 182). The recovery of the son of the royal functionary in Cana of Galilee is the second signal that Jesus carries out. A man, whose son is illness in Cafarnaúm, realized the Jesus was in Galilee. He went where Jesus was and he prayed him to get down to heal is son. Jesus told him: “If you do not see signals and wonders, you do not believe”. The man insisted: “Lord, go down before my son dies” Jesus told him: “Go, that your son is alive”. The man believed Jesus´ word and he started his way back. When walking back, his servants came to meet him and they told him that his son was alive. He asked them at what time he had felt better. They answered: “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him”. The man realized that it was the time in which Jesus told him: “Your son is alive”, and he and all his family believed (Jn 4, 46-54)

14. Let us see the recovery of the paralytic in the pool of Bethesda. “A feast of the Jews” was being celebrated and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Near the Probatic (gate of the flocks) there is a pool called in hebrew Bethesda, that has five porches. In them lied “a multitude of sick people – blind, lame and paralyzed. All were waiting for the water to move, for at times an angel of the Lord would descend into the pool and stir up the water; and the first person to enter after this movement of the water would be healed of whatever disease that person had.” (Jn 5, 1-4). Excavations carried out in the zone revealed the existence of a pool with remainders seen as “the foundations of some porches around the pool and going through the middle of it, dividing it into upper and lower pools” (Dodd, 188). There was another smaller pools linked to a “recovery pagan sanctuary” (note BJ). The five porches are “a symbol of the five books of the Law”, the porches of the temple are “the place for the official teaching of the Law”, that oppresses the people (Mateos-Barreto, 267). With the Gospel, God´s word is a pool with five porches (the first five books of the Bible) where many sick persons  wait for someone to get them into the pool to be healed

15. All right then, “There was a man who had been sick for thirty-eight years. Jesus saw him, and since he knew how long this man had been lying there, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” And the sick man answered, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; so while I am still on my way, another steps down before me.” Jesus then said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his mat and walked. Now that day happened to be the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had just been healed, “It is the Sabbath and the Law doesn’t allow you to carry your mat.” He answered them, “The one who healed me said to me: Take up your mat and walk.” They asked him, “Who is that man?  But the sick man had no idea who it was who had cured him, for Jesus had slipped away” (5, 5-13)

16. It is a matter of immersion. In Mark´s evangel, overcoming the difficulties, the paralytic is placed by four into that house full of disciples, where Jesus announces the word. When Jesus saw the faith of these people, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”  Jesus forgives the fault that paralyzes. Now, some teachers of the Law who were sitting there wondered with in themselves, “How can he speak like this insulting God? Who can forgive sins except God?”  Jesus tells them “Why do you wonder? Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man: ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say: ‘Rise, take up your mat and walk?’ But now you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” And he said to the paralytic, “Stand up, take up your mat and go home.” The man rose and, in the sight of all those people, he took up his mat and went out. All of them were astonished and praised God saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mk 2, 1-11)

17. To the man born blind Jesus tells to go into the Siloe´s pool: “Go, wash yourself in the pool of Siloe, that means Sent. He went, wash himself and came back already seeing” In the time of Jesus “the bath of the proselytes in Siloe´s pool… seems not to have been a strange event” (J, Jeremías, 332). The Church’s living tradition finds in the pool a baptismal symbolism. Baptism is the “regeneration bath” (Tt 3, 5), taking place in the “holy pool” (S. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesis XX, 4). The first centuries baptism by immersion clearly expresses it. In Milan’s cathedral crypt is the pool in which Saint Agustin could have been baptized (year 387). The pool is the community where the man is healed of his original blindness.

18. We come back to the Bethesda paralytic. “Afterwards Jesus met him in the Temple court and told him, ”Now you are well; don’t sin again, lest something worse happen to you.” And the man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. So the Jews persecuted Jesus because he per formed healings like that on the Sabbath. Jesus replied, “My Father goes on working and so do I.” And the Jews tried all the harder to kill him, for Jesus not only broke the Sabbath observance, but also made himself equal with God, calling him his own Father. (Jn 5, 14- 18). They accuse him of  deifying himself.

19. Jesus answers: “Truly, I assure you, the Son cannot do anything by himself, but only what he sees the father do. And whatever he does, the Son also does. Because the father loves the Son and shows him everything he does; and he will show him even greater things than these, so that you will be amazed.” (5, 18 – 20). The relationship of Jesus with God is the maximum possible: “The father and I are the same thing” (10, 30), “the father is more than I” (14, 28). Nevertheless, according with the council of Nicea (325), “the father is not more than the son”, new formulas are used: “True God of true God”, consubstantial with the father”, it is thought that “the answers of the Scriptures were not already adequate” (Brown, 64 and 78). Sure it is not? “The Scripture cannot fail”, says Jesus (Jn 10, 35)

20. Even  greater works.  Which? God´s word not only creates and heals, it also resurrects and judges: “As the father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to whom he wants. In the same way the father judges no one, for he has en trusted all judgment to the son”, “truly, I say to you: anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; and there is no judgment for him because he has passed from death to life.” (5, 21-24), “Who ever believes in him will not be judged” (3, 18). This is forgotten in the middle of and old tradition that puts the fear to the death and the fear to the judgement.

21. It is necessary to place the clock in time. Resurrection and judgement are God´s works that Jesus carries our already in the present: “Truly, the hour is coming and has indeed come, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and, on hearing it, will live. For the father has life in himself and he has given to the son also to have life in himself. And he has empowered him as well to carry out judgment, for he is a son of man. Do not be surprised at this: the hour is coming when all those lying in tombs will hear my voice and come out; those who have done good shall rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to a resurrection of judgement “ (5, 25-29). The signals that Jesus carries out give testimony of him, also the Scripture: “the works which the father entrusted to me to carry out…  bear witness”, “You search in the Scriptures thinking that in them you will find life; yet Scripture bears witness to me.” (5, 36-39)

* Dialogue: God´s word, is health source? How do we understand Jesus´ word that says: Heal the sick? How do we confront illness?
John´s chapter 5 is a test that reveals where we are:
-    In the official feast of a dead religion
-    In the porch of the pool, among the multitude of sick people who expect to be healed
-    With paralysis, without being able of take a step; with nobody who puts us in the pool
-    Waiting for the source of health to start
-    In dialogue with Christ, listening his word
-    With own initiative, carrying the mat, taking steps, walking.
-    Putting sick persons in the pool


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