Again and again we hear in the Gospel the story of men or women who were healed of their illnesses, and it seems so simple in the Gospel: there is a need, and God meets it. Why is it then — we ask ourselves — that it does not happen to each of us? Each of us is in need of physical healing and of the healing of our soul. And yet, only a few are healed — why? What we miss in the reading of the Gospel is that Christ did not heal people indiscriminately. One person in a crowd was healed; many who were also sick in body or soul, were not. That comes from the fact that, in order to receive the grace of God, so that it acts in us unto the healing of soul or body, or both, we must be open to God — not to the healing, but to God.
Illness is something which we so often wish to banish from our experience, not only because it hampers our life, not only because it is accompanied by pain, but also — I suspect even more — because it reminds us of our frailty, it speaks to us of our mortality. Our body at this moment says to us: You have no power to restore me to health, you can do nothing, I may die on you, I may decay and it will be the end of your earthly life. Isn't that the main reason why we fight for health, we pray for health? And yet, if that is the way in which we ask God to heal us, to restore us to wholeness, we are only asking to be allowed to forget that we are mortal. Instead of being reminded, indeed quickened by this thought, realising that days pass, that time grows short, and that we must — if we want to attain the full stature to which we are called on earth — we must make haste to shake off all that within us is the power of death. Illness and death are not only conditioned by exterior reasons; there are within us resentments, bitterness, hatred, greed — so many other things which kill the quickness of the spirit and prevent us from living now, already now, in eternal life — that eternal life which is just 'Life' in the true sense of the word, life in its fullness.
What can we do then? We must ask ourselves attentive questions, and when we come to God asking Him to heal us, we must first prepare ourselves to be healed. To be healed means not just to be made whole with a view to going back to the kind of life which we had before, it means being made whole in order to start a new life, as though we had become aware that we had died in the healing act of God, aware that all that was the old man in us, this body of corruption of which St. Paul speaks, must go in order for the new man to live. We must be prepared to become that new man through the death of the past in order to start anew like Lazarus who was called out of the grave, not to go back simply to what had been his life before, but having experienced something which is beyond utterance, to re-enter life on new terms. And for us, these terms are Christ, as Paul puts it, 'For me to live — is Christ'.
Are we capable of receiving healing? Are we willing to take upon ourselves the responsibility of being made new in order to enter, again and again, into the world in which we live, with a message of newness — to be light, to be salt, to be joy, to be hope and faith and love, to be surrendered to God.
Let us reflect on it, because we all are sick in one way or another; we all are frail, all are weak, all are incapable of living to the full, even the life which is offered us on earth. Let us reflect on it, and become capable of opening ourselves to God in such a way that He may work His miracle of healing, make us new — but in order for us to bring our newness, indeed God's newness, into the world in which we live. Amen.
This homily, preach on 7/23/1990 is found on the Metropolitan Anthony Library website. The photo is from the same source.