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Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent - Do Not Wait for Healing; Ask Now

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sometimes Jesus uses a person’s illness to demonstrate God’s mercy and healing power. In the case of the blind man in chapter 9 of John’s Gospel, Jesus informs his disciples that some illnesses are not connected to sin at all. Another person’s illness can challenge us to show compassion and deepen the pure love God has shared with us by sharing it with someone in need.

While the above example teaches us an important lesson about God’s healing power, we often overstate this episode, disconnecting all sinfulness from all illness. However, in chapter 5 of the same Gospel, which we hear today, Jesus clearly tells the man whom he heals after 38 years of illness, “See, you have been made well! Do not sin any more, so that nothing worse happens to you.”

At first it sounds as though Jesus is threatening the man. “Do not sin, and God will not smite you!” But drawing that conclusion misses the point of his warning. God does not inflict illness on someone as a response to his sin. Jesus provides a clear reminder that sinfulness leads to self-inflicted illness. This man is not sick because of some external cause. He has marred himself with his sinfulness. He shows his sinfulness on the outside for all of us to see. And his external healing reflects the healing of his soul.

It can be easy to ridicule this man, or even disbelieve his waiting 38 years for healing. He is blind, lame, and crippled. Why would he sit in this debilitating condition for so long? And why would no one else come to his aid?

But what are we to say for those of us who, as a result of our sin, are only ill on the inside? I may not be able to ignore physical blindness, but with enough discipline I can ignore the anger I have for another person. If greed moves me to steal from others, I can learn to cover my shame with the gratification of so many material goods. And if I am really good at covering over this sin, no one else has to know there is anything wrong with me...or so I convince myself to think.

The problem is that no sinfulness, no matter how minimal, can stay in our hearts long without doing severe damage. Regardless of our sins’ species and gravity, they eventually smother the warmth of the Holy Spirit within us. We either diminish the level of charity in our souls or expel it altogether. And since charity is the sign by which people know we are Christians, our sinfulness will show forth on the outside, just as it did with the man in the today’s Gospel.

The ill man could not have been cured before the appointed time. Jesus was not in his midst until that day. But, Jesus is among us now. He brings healing in the Sacrament of Penance and sustains our good health through the Eucharist. We do not have to wait for Easter to experience the Risen Christ. If you are ill now, call upon Jesus today, “Heal me.”

Augustine OP


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