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For Your Weekend: When Jesus Doesn’t Heal

Laura Phelps

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Mark 1:2939

Sometimes, Jesus’ ways don’t make sense. For instance, years ago, I went to a healing mass, clutching a photo of a loved one I desperately wanted Jesus to restore to health. Despite my confidence in the power of God, my loved one’s serious condition remained unchanged, but “little Billy,” who asked for his elbow to stop hurting so that he could throw a baseball, left the church ready to suit up for his next Little League game.

Really, Lord? I mean, I have nothing against “little Billy,” but come on, now. What’s up with Your random healing?

If you’ve been following the Sunday Mass readings, you’ve noticed a healing theme. Last week, we read about Jesus performing a public exorcism in the synagogue at Capernaum that made Him famous. This week, we will read about the private healing in the home of Simon’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29–39). She wasn’t possessed. She had a fever. And instantly, Jesus completely healed her. He is both a divine physician and an exorcist, working both personal and private miracles, and the moral of the story? No spiritual, mental, or physical illness is too big or too small for Jesus. He can heal it all.

Only He doesn’t.

What catches my eye in Sunday’s gospel reading is the word “many.” “He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons” (Mark 1:34). 

Many, not all. 

In fact, you get the impression that there were people still hoping to be healed when Jesus sneaks away alone early to pray, and His disciples find Him to say, “Everyone is looking for you” (Mark 1:37). In other words, “What are You doing? Come on, You’re famous now! Let’s get You back to the crowd. You’re on a roll; there’s more work to be done here!” But Jesus doesn’t stay in that town. Knowing of their searching and the healing left undone, Jesus moves on. 

Have you ever searched for Jesus, longing for Him to heal you or a loved one, only to feel like He just moved on? Do you wonder if your little faith or repeated sins prevent His healing? Do you look around and see issues more significant than your own, concluding that you are just not sick enough to waste Jesus’ time? Have you ever found yourself before the Blessed Sacrament, silently screaming: “Why not my spouse?” “Why not my daughter?” Why not my son?” “Why not me?”

I don’t know why Jesus heals some and not all, but His response to His friends on that early morning gives me a hint. His reason for packing up and moving on had nothing to do with the people, their faith, or their sins. It was about His mission. “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come” (Mark 1:38). Jesus was on the go, in action, and laser-focused. There was no crowd or rising fame that could distract Him from what He was sent to do. His purpose was never to heal every sickness on earth. Oh, no. It was far greater than that. God sent His son Jesus to redeem humanity from sin, to unite God with man, breaking the bonds of slavery so that we can live in freedom as the sons and daughters of God (Galatians 4:1–7). 

But let’s be honest. When the physical, mental, or spiritual pain is just too much, the temptation to trade forever freedom for temporary relief is all too real. And so we allow our desire for comfort to distract us from our purpose. Our heads may know that what we suffer here on earth does not even compare to what awaits us in heaven, but when our health is threatened, or worse—when a loved one is ill, we’ll choose a fast numbing over a patient suffering any day.  

Remember the story of the brothers Esau and Jacob? After working in the field, a famished Esau comes home to the smell of red pottage cooking. When he demands his brother Jacob give him some of the red pottage to eat, Jacob says, “First sell me your birthright” (Genesis 25:31). Now, Esau’s response should have been, “My inheritance? For a bowl of beans? Have you gone mad? Forget it! I can wait this one out.” But instead, Esau says, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” (Genesis 25:32). And he eats the beans.

If I tell you something, will you promise not to judge me? For the past few months, I’ve wanted to eat the bowl of beans. Keeping my eyes on my inheritance, on the promise that one day there will be no more pain or tears, has been a challenge. I have cried a lot more. I have toyed with despair. Waiting for the healing has been excruciating. The flip of every calendar page is like a fresh sword in my heart: a reminder that the healing has yet to come. Hope is hard when there's no relief; when you start to believe that Jesus has no healing for you, He's already moved on. 

If this is where you are, dear friend, I know someone who can help you. She helps me, and her name is Mary.

In these very moments, I turn to the Blessed Mother, whose heart was pierced far greater than mine and whose Son—God—didn’t choose to remove her pain. No miracle healing in the Scriptures or our present day has strengthened my faith half as much as the witness of our lady who humbly, obediently, and lovingly persevered through unimaginable pain. The swords she bore did not weaken her heart; they made it stronger. Her sorrows did not cause her to lose her footing but carved deeper channels of grace that enabled her to stand at the foot of the cross. And maybe that’s the point. Perhaps we need that thing we wish God would remove. 

What if that thing we’ve been begging the Lord to heal is the only thing that keeps us stationed at the cross? 

What if we couldn’t become half the evangelists we are called to be without the suffering? 

What if someone else’s faith depends on our greatest disappointment?

We will all be healed one day, you know. Until then, let us pray for the strength to use what ails us to keep us tethered to Christ: to point us to our purpose on earth, which will never be to live without sickness, pain, or trials, but to glorify God, proclaim His glory, and make Him known.

Food for thought or journaling…

If the Lord has yet to bring you the healing you desire, how might He be asking you to use your suffering to strengthen your faith and the faith of those around you?

Jesus, You are the Divine Healer. I trust that You are working when I see no sign of improvement. Remind me that what I endure on earth, You permit because it’s precisely what I need to get to heaven. Mother Mary, be a mother to me. Comfort me in my affliction. Stand with me in my grief. When I am tempted to sit in my suffering, carry me to Your Son. Amen.

 

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