“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:34
In scripture, we find many accounts where Jesus meets someone with what we today would call a disability or sickness and offers that person healing. This week I have been thinking about what it means that Jesus heals, and how is healing different from a “cure”?
Our culture tends to think about bodies and disabilities through a medical perspective, so it makes sense that when we think about healing, particularly for folks with disabilities, we might assume it means some kind of bodily healing, or cure. But especially in healing narratives where the gospel writer goes into detail, we can recognize these encounters are about much more than a cure.
If curing were the essential part, the narrative could end when the body is changed. But instead, gospel writers continue reporting far beyond the moment of physical cure to include details that wouldn’t matter if curing the body were the main point. This is part of how we recognize that healing is not equivalent to curing in the gospels. A cure is simply a transformation of a body (part), a body that will eventually deteriorate and die. But Jesus’s healing is much larger and involves someone’s entire life.
In Jesus’s context, having a disability was about more than what a person couldn’t do (see, walk, etc.). It was also about what they were not able to be: namely, valued, integrated members of their social community and worship space, with meaningful vocations (things that continue to be true for many people with disabilities today). So, Jesus’s healing work needed to involve holistic transformation. Apart from bodily cure, the people Jesus heals experience healing socially, relationally, spiritually, and in many other ways. It is a whole life transformation, including transformation of how people perceive them.
In an encounter, Jesus will often remind the person (and anyone nearby) of that person’s true identity—by calling them a daughter, son, part of the family of faith—something that was always true, but not always acknowledged by the broader culture.
When they are healed on a social level, people are able to more fully integrate into their community. And spiritually, they recognize the truth of who Jesus is, often becoming followers or worshipers, and sometimes even gain a meaningful vocation. These are all aspects of healing, going beyond cure.
When they are healed on a social level, people are able to more fully integrate into their community. And spiritually, they recognize the truth of who Jesus is, often becoming followers or worshipers, and sometimes even gain a meaningful vocation as evangelists to their hometowns. These are all aspects of healing, going beyond cure.
Caring for people’s bodies mattered to Jesus, and it should matter to us. But a common thread among the healing encounters is that the person left the encounter feeling good about what took place.
For a number of folks with disabilities today, a bodily cure is not something they need or sometimes even want, because they appreciate the bodies and minds God has given them. In these cases, to assume healing must include bodily cure could be harmful, something that did not occur when Jesus healed.
So, to follow in the way of Jesus today, I think means holistically healing (which may or may not include curing), that is a deeper integration into community, a growing connection to Jesus, and a meaningful life path. So, can be healers as well. We don’t have to be doctors or priests to heal. To heal is to transform the circumstantial condition in which someone is living by offering encouragement, companionship, and hope for a deeper spiritual life even if there is no cure to be had.
I hope to see you at our Sunday Service at 8 am or 10:30 am. this will be the Fifth Sunday of Pentecost, June 27, 2021. The Service bulletin is in the file below if you are worshipping online this week. I hope to see you soon. Blessings, Fr. Bill+