Beyond Healing, Beyond Miracles

Recently in the Spiritual Exercises, I was exposed to a new way of viewing the healing miracles of Jesus.

The Jesuit Larry Gillick asks, “What then?” The retreatant is encouraged to reflect at length on these experiences of healing.

I have done so in the past, so I was prepared to accede to the guidance of the retreat and do so again. Quite often, I have prayed over the question: Do you want to heal me? And the Lord’s answer: Of course I want to. Be healed!

I suspected there was more to this stage of the Exercises, and I was right:

In Christ there is the freeing from and the freeing for, the healing from and the healing for. Jesus heals not for the personal contentment of the man or woman of faith but rather for the personal completion that is received in joining his mission of bringing others to life. The will of God is that each of us be healed from not believing in God’s love for us and for this world. Our blindness, our paralysis, our being deaf, our being dead, are all embraced by Christ, and he takes away our good excuses that once confined and defined us. He is sent to touch us and then send us to embrace this bent world.

Jesus cleansed the leper (Luke 5:12-14) and in the familiar encounter, I found a new level:

Once, when he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, ‘I do choose. Be made clean.’ Immediately the leprosy left him. And he ordered him to tell no one. ‘Go’, he said, ‘and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them.’

So that was what Ignatius was driving at, I thought. “Make an offering for your cleansing” is the post-miracle request from the Lord. I may not look at Jesus and healing in quite the same way ever again.

I was thinking back to a profound experience of emotional healing I experienced in 1994 while on retreat. What did I offer in return for this? Deep gratitude. A new approach to life. A letting go of bitterness and regret. Perhaps in retrospect, a simple word of thanks. I still feel healed today.

I remember some people I befriended many years ago in my first ministry assignment. She was a Catholic, married to a Protestant. They had a young son. My male friend switched to Catholicism before I met them–it was a recent switch when I was introduced to them. This couple clearly lived their faith openly and shared of it and other things rather freely. They gave me a coffee table which I still have twenty-five years later.

What was interesting is that they attributed their faith to a visit to Medjugorje. I thought the whole Medjugorje thing was a little bit from the fringe. But my friends lived in such a way that their lives were an undeniable witness to the Lord.

In contrast, I met another couple later that year, also Medjugorje people. But the difference was night and day. These people were more bitter, antagonistic to much in the Church, and because of a profound misunderstanding, lobbied to have me fired from my job. The husband later came to me and apologized. He related their recent trip to Medjugorje was filled with frustration and obstacles. It was as if the whole thing was wrong, completely out of sync from God entirely.

It wasn’t so much about the experiences these people had, but how they responded afterward.

And I see in the spiritual life, it’s not about staying on the mountain, and enjoying a project boxing Jesus into a booth. What comes after an encounter with God?

It’s why I remain a skeptic on the veracity of the Medjugorje phenomenon. I find relatively few people in real life who are attached to it these days. It seems strange that thirty years of visitations, and the fruits are still in dispute.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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