4-26-16 - Do You Want Healing?

There is something deeply frightening about asking for healing. Alarmed as we might be by illness, symptoms, loss of freedom and mobility, or even approaching death, it can be scarier still to ask for God’s transforming power to effect a change. What if God doesn’t answer? Then, in addition to the scourge of illness, our faith has taken a hit. This fear is enough to keep many people stuck in infirmity.

One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

It’s a fair question. I have wanted to ask it of quite a few people, and I’m sure many have wanted to ask it of me. Thirty-eight years seems like a long time to endure illness, but dis-ease can easily become a habit. I’ve known robust, active people rendered prematurely homebound by pain or difficulty moving around as they used to; it seems to the people around them that they’ve given up way too soon – but the shock of limitations deals its own blows to the psyche.

We don’t know the circumstances of the man in our story. He comes off as a bit of a whiner – and as the story continues after this week’s section, he snitches on Jesus to the temple authorities, which doesn’t make him very likable. But whiners take to whining when no one listens to them, and this man may have had very good reasons why his illness became chronic. And once that became his way of life, and possibly his livelihood through the charity of others, he may no longer have been able to imagine himself well. After all, when we are sick all our energy goes into getting through the day; we don’t have much left for imagining wellness or praying for healing.

But God can always imagine us well. God’s desire for us is wholeness. Perhaps the first prayer we make is not “Heal me,” but “Show me your vision of me whole.” Perhaps in prayer we imagine Jesus looking at us and asking, “Do you want to be made well?” in whatever area of our life we feel broken or wounded.

And answer honestly. Do you want to be healed? Do I? Are there advantages to our conditions, be they physical, emotional or spiritual? Attention we get, or ways in which expectations are comfortably lowered, other people take responsibility for things? Are there relationships that would be upset if we were healed and whole?

I believe the power to heal comes from God, and has already been given to us, as Christ lives in us through baptism. The question for us is what impedes the flow of that healing stream in and around us? What keeps us on the banks of that river, afraid to jump in? Knowing that can help release the Love that restores us to wholeness.

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