In the life of the body a man is sometimes sick, and unless he takes medicine, he will die. Even so in the spiritual life a man is sick on account of sin. For that reason he needs medicine so that he may be restored to health; and this grace is bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance.--St. Thomas Aquinas
(Gospel Luke 5: 12-16) It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was;
and when he saw Jesus,
he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said,
“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”
Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said,
“I do will it. Be made clean.”
And the leprosy left him immediately.
Then he ordered him not to tell anyone, but
“Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing
what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”
The report about him spread all the more,
and great crowds assembled to listen to him
and to be cured of their ailments,
but he would withdraw to deserted places to pray.
Who wouldn’t want to be healed?
It’s not surprising that crowds connected with Jesus’ healing ministry. I would have been there. You?
I find that there’s a sneaky element in these healings that really make life more complicated. Ready?
First, consider what might characterize the attitude of a leper. What feelings might drive such a person? How about: fear of being discovered and rejected; resentment at being excluded; shame at one’s physical appearance.
My question is this: When Jesus healed the leper of his disease, did he heal him also of his dis-ease? In other words, what if Jesus’ healing took care of the physical symptoms without dealing with the inner processes that were connected to leprosy?
So, what’s it like for a leper to be reintroduced into his/her community? That’s the upshot of Jesus’ command that sent him to the priests to “show himself.” The proof of healing opened the door for his reentry into relationship with family and friends.
What if this healed leper was very much at the same time still wounded in his spirit? How would that play out when moving back into relationship with others? What sort of havoc would resentment, fear, embarrassment, shame, and the like wreak back in relationships?
Physical healing seems to be the prelude that incites the community to enter into the healing process of receiving a member back who won’t fit in right away. Thus the community will have to undergo soul searching for it to see what its own needs for healing are and how all can respond to this turn of events.
That seem sneaky? Perhaps the hope many of us hold out for healing is actually a prelude to deeper healing as old relationships struggle to become new.