Walking across the school playground one morning I was greeted by a long lost friend. “I hear you are working miracles,” she said. What could she have meant?
The Gospels tell of Jesus performing many miracles. John closes his Gospel with, “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” Is this exaggeration, or is John trying to tell us something?
Instead of speaking of ‘miracles’ why not use, mighty deeds of power.
Mark tells us that Jesus received a cold reception when he went visiting Nazareth. He closes this unpleasant episode with, “So he was not able to perform any mighty deeds there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them.” (Mk 6: 5) This suggests that curing the sick was just one aspect of his healing ministry.
14 When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; 15 he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve them. (Mt 8: 14 – 15) This healing was probably witnessed by Peter, his wife, other members of the family and of course the woman herself. This must have made a profound impact on all present. The story was told and re-told. Matthew, probably got the story second or third hand. His community did not experience this healing. All they had was a healing story.
Healing stories are a type of literature that the evangelists used to convey to their communities the teachings and values of Jesus. We must search out the message that Matthew wanted to convey and the lesson that story has for us.
God has a healing mission:
“I will heal their wounds and reveal an abundance of lasting peace. I will rebuild them as of old. I will cleanse them of all guilt ; all their offences I will forgive. Then Jerusalem shall be my joy, my praise, my glory, before all the nations of the earth, as they hear of all the good I will do among them. I will give her the benefits of peace. (Jer 33: 6-9)
On that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book; and out of gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly shall ever find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. (Is 29: 18-19)
Jesus saw his healing mission in a similar light.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free.” (Lk 4: 18)
Our healing mission is summed up:
“This, rather is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, lifting every burden, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.” (Is 58: 6-8)
According to Isaiah healing is a two way process. Both the ‘sick’ and the ‘healer’ experience change in their lives.
“Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall be quickly healed. Your saving goodness will be recognized, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” (Is 58: 8)
The feeding of the crowds appears six times in the Gospels, twice in Mark, twice in Matthew, once in Luke and once in John. This event must have been deeply significant for the early Christians. Mark, after the first feeding story tells us that, “They had not understood the incident of the loaves (Mk 6: 52) After the second feeding the disciples are in a boat and Jesus addresses them.
“Do you not understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? (Mk 8: 17) The disciples had witnessed the feeding. Mark is telling us that there is a deeper meaning to the feeding than handing out sandwiches.
He gives us one possible insight. Immediately after arriving at Gennesaret the local people “scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was, and as many as he touched were healed.” (Mk 6: 55-56) This is true religion. The meaning of the feeding is summed up by James; “Religion that is pure and undefiled is this; to care for orphans and widows in their affliction.” (Jm 1: 27)
When we share with the hungry we exercise our healing ministry. (Is 58: 7) Matthew encourages us to share, care, heal, change people’s lives. Always let, “Your light shine before others.” (Mt 5: 16)