Friday, June 30, 2017

He Took Away Our Infirmities

Is anything too marvelous for the LORD to do? At the appointed time, about this time next year, I will return to you, and Sarah will have a son." Genesis 18:14

"Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully." He said to him, "I will come and cure him." The centurion said in reply, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” Matthew 8:6-8

Yet it was our pain that he bore, our sufferings he endured. We thought of him as stricken, struck down by God and afflicted, but he was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed.  (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Physical, as well as spiritual healing, are themes intricately woven throughout the Hebrew Bible and the Good News.  In addition, holy hospitality is the service many people offer up in gratitude for the marvelous gifts (healing or otherwise) bestowed by the Lord.

Jesus works in ways both prompted and unprompted to give people their God-given right to good health. In today’s readings, we encounter examples of how the Lord intervenes in the physical health of Sarah and Peter’s mother-in-law.  The notes to the NABRE explain that, unlike Mark, Matthew has no implied request by others for the woman’s cure. Jesus acts on his own initiative, and the cured woman rises and waits not on “them” (Mark 1:31) but on Jesus himself. The healing of the centurion’s servant differs in that it is completed in response to a specific request.

When Jesus hears of the predicament of the confident centurion, he offers a shocking proposal at the time:  Jesus offers to go to his house even though Jews were forbidden from entering Gentile homes.  "I will come and cure him." 

“You know that it is unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with, or visit, a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean. (Acts 10:28)

The centurion likely knows this as well as Jesus and offers to avoid the conflict with his confession that we repeat at every Eucharistic banquet.  "Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my [soul] will be healed.”

Jesus, too, offers a second amazing reaction to the centurion before issuing the command for healing: When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. The healing is secondary to the story of the faith exhibited by the centurion. Then, Matthew goes on to relate the story of Peter’s mother-in-law and many others who were healed.

He took away our infirmities and bore our diseases. Turning to the notes to the NABRE again, this fulfillment citation from Isaiah 53:4. The prophet speaks of the Servant of the Lord who suffers vicariously for the sins (“infirmities”) of others; Matthew takes the infirmities as physical afflictions.

The relationship of healing and healthcare to the mission of Jesus as well as to the commission of the disciples is not lost as a mere coincidence to the broader national debate right now.

Remember:  our identity is always linked to Jesus’ identity. What does this passage say to me? First, our diseases are taken up and carried away by Jesus. Second, we are called to make sure that our sisters and brothers are well cared for as well.

In a statement issued last week, Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Domestic Justice and Humane Development Committee, said the following: “As the USCCB has consistently said, the loss of affordable access for millions of people is simply unacceptable. These are real families who need and deserve health care. We pray that the Senate will work in an open and unified way to keep the good aspects of current health care proposals, to add missing elements where needed, and to not place our sisters and brothers who struggle every day into so great a peril on so basic a right."

The position of the church in favor of healthcare was first articulated in February of 1919 – almost 100 years ago.  Catholic Social Teaching on healthcare has not changed radically.

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