12 February 2010 Friday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 11, 29 – 12, 19; Psalm 81; Mark 7, 31-37
The stories of yesterday’s Syro-Phoenician woman and the deaf-mute of today’s Gospel are fascinating tales of healing. Aside from Jesus, the protagonists are “outsiders” who come from a non-Jewish part of Palestine (v. 31). As a Jew, Jesus is forbidden to be in contact with them. In these episodes, non-Jewish men and women are healed, and they too spread the news about Jesus. We can say that these outsiders also become evangelizers.
In today’s world, there are two healing ministers: the doctor and the priest. But the priest is often at the losing end: there are more cases of death after a priest visits. The thing is: you too can heal. Here is a pattern in the way Jesus cures. And we can use this process too.
Illnesses are personal matters; we are embarrassed to tell people what we are suffering from. We feel we become “outsiders” when we are limited and less useful to society. Our physical inadequacies affect our self-esteem. For practical reasons, those who get sick are requested to withdraw from the crowd. Hospitalization is a form of isolation.
Doctors begin by consulting patients in their individual offices for diagnosis. Patients need space to honestly answer questions. Some of these answers are mortifying to reveal in public.
In the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, the priest requests all those present to leave the patient for some time if the sick wants to confess. After confession, everyone returns for prayer.
Second, employ touch and prayer. Jesus has touched the deaf-mute to heal him. There are many ways to use a healing touch. We can pat them on the back or we can visit them. Care for the sick is one of our corporal works of mercy. Our mere presence can uplift their spirits.
Touch assures us that there are people who will accompany us in our affliction. In anointing the sick, the priest lays his hands on the head of the sick person and then anoints with oil the forehead, hands and other areas of pain and injury while the community around the sick prays. These gestures guarantee the sick of God’s constant care and consolation.
Modern medicine does not discount the importance of the human touch. Parents are encouraged to massage their babies. Scientific studies show that babies who feel the warmth of their parents become physically and emotionally healthy. Even for adults, we feel well after being given a hug from a loved one or from a group of friends.
Third, use medicine. Jesus has used spittle to heal. In the olden days, they believed that saliva possessed some antiseptic property. This is not totally alien to us in the Philippines: we chew young guava leaves and then apply them to bruises and scratches. To the modern mind, the use of spittle will make many wince.
However, this episode of healing gives us a glimpse of the mind of Jesus. He knows He doesn’t need spittle to heal. However, He does not want to disturb the beliefs of people so He used it.
Often the medicine that we trust the most are the ones that heal us, even if other alternatives like generic drugs possess the same ingredient.
Nevertheless, the message is clear: use available medicines.
To recap: talk to the person privately to diagnose, touch and pray over them, and finally, help the person take faithfully what is prescribed to them.