Preach and Heal
User's Guide to Sunday, Feb. 8
Sunday, Feb. 8, is the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B).
Job 7:1-4, 6-7; Psalm 147:1-6; 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23; Mark 1:29-39
What if you had the power to heal people’s sickness and disease? The question is a little bit like asking, as the best comic-book stories do: “What would you do if you had a superpower?”
It would change your life and your interaction with the world. You would structure your life around making time to heal the sick. But you would have to be careful that you didn’t burn yourself out or get no rest, reducing yourself to just a medicine bottle instead of a person.
You would also have to be careful that you didn’t change the very nature of creation. We often hear stories of sickness and suffering being moments of grace in people’s lives. Families will talk about how a parent didn’t have his priorities right until he got sick. Sometimes, getting better transforms a person. Sometimes, not getting better does. Often in life, loss becomes grace; so the power to heal becomes even more momentous.
These are the questions Jesus faces in the Gospel. He has the power to heal, but, as the Author of Life, he also knows just what consequences his power will have in people’s lives.
When he visits his friends’ houses, he heals their families. When word gets out about his gift, the sick line the streets, and he heals them. When he goes off to rest, his companions find him and say, “Everyone is looking for you.”
He knows his power is not for his own self-aggrandizement, but for others. He cannot keep it to himself. His healing gift makes him the servant of the suffering; he can’t ignore them.
We can imagine Jesus saying, “Since I can heal people, I must. Woe to me if I do not heal.”
These, of course, are the words of the second reading from St. Paul. He says, “An obligation has been imposed on me” to preach the Gospel, “and woe to me if I do not preach it!”
To preach the Good News is to heal hearts and souls, and Paul knows it. That’s why his attitude toward preaching is the same as Christ’s attitude toward healing.
“When I preach, I offer the Gospel free of charge,” he said. “I have made myself a slave to all, so as to win over as many as possible.”
Today’s Psalm tells us what it means to “win over as many as possible.”
“Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted,” it says.
We all have St. Paul’s power to direct people to the God who heals broken hearts.
That is the only real, lasting kind of healing.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.