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Deacon-structing the voice of illness, part 3

Deacon Pedro

Monday, December 7, 2020

Detail of Jesus Heals the Blind and Lame on the Mountain by James Tissot (Photo credit: Brooklyn Museum)
We began our reflection two weeks ago by defining the voice of illness as the voice inside all of us that cries out, "Where is God?" And last week, we looked at the work of pastoral ministers and the tension between being and doing.
When I look at Scripture, it seems as though Jesus never shied away from healing anyone (at least none that were recorded). All throughout the Gospels and mainly in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when Jesus encounters disease and suffering, he heals. We hear endless accounts of Jesus curing lepers and the sick, of Jesus healing the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 7:1-10), Jesus healing the lame and paralytics and expelling demons, the healing of the woman who touched the hem of his garment and Jairus’ daughter brought to life (Mark 5:21-43; Matthew 9:18-26; Luke 8:40-56), Jesus healing the blind, the deaf, and the mute, the woman who had been crippled for 18 years (Luke 13:10-17) and the man with the withered hand (Matthew 12:9-13; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11) and today's Gospel reading, Jesus heals the paralytic whose friends brought him in through the roof (Luke 5:17-26). We are also very familiar with the stories of Jesus offering comfort: the calming the storm (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25), forgiving the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53–8:11), and raising Lazarus (John 11:1-44).
Jesus always confronted suffering with healing, with forgiveness of sins, and by offering hope and comfort.
It is not very clear whether Jesus ever sat and just listened to people or whether he let them set the agenda (as I suggested we should do last week – although, according to the Gospels, he never heals anyone who does not ask for it. Maybe that is letting them set the agenda).
Perhaps, however, especially during this time of the year, the kind of suffering we encounter is not the kind that needs physical healing. Perhaps it's closer to Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman from John 4:4-26. She is not crippled or ill. But she is in pain, and Jesus listens to her voice of illness. He offers her living water and, as a result, changes her life. Her “Where is God?” has been answered. But did Jesus merely listen to her and do nothing? On the contrary, he teaches her, corrects her, and offers her a solution. He fixes her problem, as he does with everyone else he heals.
Not to presume that we can operate in the same way Jesus operated. He answered, “Where is God?” by simply being God; we can’t do that. I do believe that in many cases we must offer words of encouragement and, when necessary and appropriate, with charity, offer solutions. The key is first to be present (the better part, the one that Martha’s sister Mary chose in Luke 10:38-42) and allow for Christ to be present.
Then, be authentic in our ministry to that person.
Tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and on December 12 we celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe. I can’t help but think that maybe Mary offers us a better example. We don’t know much about what she said or did except that she accepted God’s will (Luke 1:38) and kept things in her heart (Luke 2:19). But we also know that she acted with haste and went to help others (Luke 1:39-56).  I’d like to think that she listened and was a comforting presence to all. Last Sunday, Isaiah told us that God, like a shepherd, feeds his flock and gathers the lambs in his arms (Isaiah 40:11). That sounds like the comfort a mother provides.
Next Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, Isaiah tells us that the Messiah will come
“to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favour from the LORD.” (Isaiah 61:1)
This year does not feel like it has been a year of favour for anyone: so many are in darkness. Maybe this Advent season we can make an extra effort to be present to those around us, to let the Lord enter when we encounter the other, and to really listen to those around us and offer them real comfort. Then, offer hope. Use words of hope, bring glad tidings, proclaim liberty, and announce a year of favour!
Let me end by suggesting that if you are not sure how best to offer hope to someone this Advent season, perhaps you can light a candle of hope for them. Visit our webpage to find out how you can do that.
Come back next week as we explore what this means to all of you in pastoral work and write to me to ask questions or share your thoughts with me.

pedroEvery week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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