Friday Lent Reflections from Jesus Freak: Healing the Sick

Another in a series of excerpts from Sara Miles’ wonderful book, Jesus Freak. On a week when government policy concerning health care is on our mind, an excerpt from her chapter on the church’s role in healing:

“When I got to morning prayer, Julie was already there. The church was quiet, and someone had left an enormous bunch of pink lilies that filled the room with sweetness. We sat in silence, we chanted a Psalm, we sang.

“Julie, can you read the Gospel?” I asked. We fumbled for a moment finding the passage appointed for the day, and then Julie stood in her windbreaker holding the book with Mark’s spare, strange story. “When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side …,” Julie began. She read slowly, as the narratives unfolded and knocked into each other.

The leader of the synagogue comes to Jesus to beg him to lay hands on his daughter, who’s desperately sick. But while they’re talking, a nameless woman in the crowd, who’s been bleeding for twelve years, seeing doctors without hope, impoverishing herself, sneaks up to Jesus from behind. She doesn’t know who he is, but she’s consumed by a desperate thought: if she can just touch the hem of the clothes, she’ll be healed. “And at once,” Julie read, “the source of the bleeding was dried up in her, and she felt in herself that she was cured. And at once aware of the power that had gone out of our him, Jesus turned around.”

When morning prayers were done, Julie glanced at me. “I love it that Mark says he felt the power go out of him,” she said. “Like it’s just going through him, and he’s the conduit.”

“Do you ever feel like that?” I asked.

“Ah,” she said slyly. “Ahh, sometimes.”

Then she shook her head. “Yesterday we had a conference on molar pregnancies,” Julie said. “It’s when a nonviable embryo implants and proliferates in the uterus, and usually causes uncontrollable bleeding. They can cause women to bleed to death.”

Julie said that after the lecture, a resident told a story of working in a rural clinic in El Salvador during medical school. A man had come to ask for help for his wife who was “weak and bleeding.” The student went up into the mountains and found a pale woman lying in her hammock, unable to get up. She examined the woman’s abdomen and found that her uterus was swollen out of her pelvis with a molar pregnancy; she’s been bleeding for months.

Julie was quiet. “I keep picturing that Salvadoran woman crawling through a crowd reaching for his cloak,” she said.

Jesus calls out his disciples, giving us authority to heal and sending us out. He doesn’t show us how to reliably cure a molar pregnancy. He doesn’t show us how to make a blind man see, dry every tear, or even drive out all kinds of demons. But he shows us how to enter into a way of life in which the broken and sick pieces are held in love, and given meaning. In which strangers literally touch each other, and doing so make a community spacious enough for everyone. In which the deepest desires of our hearts draw us to health. Don’t be afraid, Jesus says: your faith will make you well.”

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