Jesus the Healer, Emmanuel
By Sister Marion Moeser, OSF
The Covid 19 global pandemic reveals our vulnerability; the mitigation efforts make us aware of community around us and all over the world. At this time we naturally turn to prayer and ask for help and healing from our God.
Our situation calls to mind Jesus’ healing ministry as recorded in the gospels. Jesus taught the message of God’s love and compassion, and he showed this love by curing sickness and disease. His healing revealed the power of God working through him.
Today we might enter into a discussion on how the healings might be explained by medicine or science not as “miracles” – signs of God’s power. But as New Testament scholar Father Donald Senior observes, the number of stories of Jesus’ healing recorded in the gospels and elsewhere, show us that “Jesus’ own contemporaries considered him to be a man of extraordinary force and power, a power that could liberate and heal, a power that could come only from God.”
In Jesus’ time, sickness was common. In all but one of the healing stories, Jesus did not seek out the sick; people who wanted a cure came to Jesus, usually demonstrating faith in him.
In Jesus’ time people prayed the psalms of lament in sickness and distress. In these psalms people described their situations and demanded that God listen to them, “Look upon me, Answer me, Lord, my God” (13:4). We do not complain to someone who does not love us. Complaints in the psalms include: (a) suffering and symptoms: “Have pity on me Lord, for I am weak; heal me Lord for my bones are shuddering. My soul too is shuddering greatly, and you, Lord, how long? (6:3-4); “My loins burn with fever; there is no wholesomeness in my flesh. I am numb and utterly crushed; I wail with anguish of heart (38:8-9); (b) distress: “Do not hide your face from your servant; hasten to answer me, for I am in distress. Come and redeem my life” (69:17-18); (c) the absence of God’s presence: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (22:1) spoken by Jesus himself on the cross. All but one lament (Ps 88) ends with a statement of hope or thanksgiving, e.g., “But I trust in your mercy. Grant my heart joy in your salvation” (13:6).
Believing in the divinity of Jesus, we can follow the example of the biblical laments to pray directly to Jesus Christ. We can express distress, fears, confusion, and pain, our own, of those around us, of those afflicted with the virus, for those around our country, around the world. We can express our trust in Jesus and give thanks for recovery,and for seeing God’s/Jesus’ love and compassion in the people who are stepping up to help.
When this pandemic evokes thoughts that God/Jesus is absent, think about difficult moments when despite all, we had a sense of God’s presence and dwell in that memory. We can be reassured by the title given to Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, “Emmanuel” – God with us – and by the promise of Jesus at the close of this gospel, “I am with you to the end of the ages.”