This summer, my parish is participating in a 90-Day Bible Reading Challenge. It’s been a powerful journey and companion during this pandemic time. One of the lessons we have already learned this summer is reading the Bible at a rapid pace is different than in-depth Bible Study. You tend to get the big picture of God and the people of faith, see patterns more easily, and catch things by reading the books in order as opposed to hearing snippets, like we do on Sundays.
As we have been reading through Matthew, something caught my attention this time. From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he is constantly healing people. Not just one or two famous stories we may remember, but constantly healing, sometimes healing whole crowds of sick people. In chapter ten, when Jesus sends out his twelve disciples, he doesn’t tell them to teach people or preach the gospel. He gives them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Jesus also does a lot of teaching in Matthew, but I was surprised to remember how ubiquitous Jesus’ healing ministry is.
Reading Matthew’s Gospel in a rapid, big-picture way, I have been reminded how much Jesus’ healing ministry makes me a bit uncomfortable. I am generally comfortable with preaching and teaching, but, as one of Jesus’ disciples, healing is not a power I would ever claim. Additionally, as modern readers, I think healing and miracles are one of those things that lead to all sorts of questions. Does Jesus really heal people? When we think of healing, do we soften the words, making the healing more figurative than literal? If Jesus heals all those people in his time, what do we do with all the people who are not healed in our time, especially as we face a worldwide pandemic? Shouldn’t healing just be limited to medical professionals and those gifted with the charism of healing, as opposed to all of us as followers of Christ?
Here’s what I do know. The healing Jesus does allows individuals to reenter communal life, fully participating in the community, and being restored as an equal. Also, the healing Jesus does clears the way for those individuals to do good with their lives, not only helping others, but also showing others the way to Christ. As I think about those who are suffering in our communities, part of the healing that is needed is the healing that will restore them to full participation in life – eliminating poverty, hunger, homelessness, and discrimination of any kind. Making health care, childcare, affordable food, and affordable housing accessible to all. We may not have the vocation of physical or mental healing, but we all have the vocation of healing our society, respecting the dignity of every human being, and striving for justice and peace among all people. Perhaps when Jesus sent out those disciples to heal, they all healed others in the ways they knew how. But they all went out to heal. We can go and do likewise – healing this world that needs healing so much!