January 31, 2024 at 8:44 a.m.

God heals the brokenhearted!

Our faith knows that Jesus is present in the healing; our faith believes that in all the suffering and anguish Jesus is present giving us strength and hope.
WORD OF FAITH: A breakdown of each week's upcoming Sunday readings to better understand the Word of God at Mass.
WORD OF FAITH: A breakdown of each week's upcoming Sunday readings to better understand the Word of God at Mass.

By Sister Linda Neil, CSJ | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Job seems to capture the human situation with his question, “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?” Most of us, at times, can answer with a resounding, “YES!” Job’s misery came upon him all at once: his flocks stolen, servants murdered, health destroyed, children killed, his faith in God shaken to the core and his own reputation as a just man called into question! Job definitely had the right to say, “I shall not see happiness again.” 

The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. — Mark 1:33-34

Certainly, this seems to be a dismal way to begin our Liturgy. But let’s pause for a moment and recall a time in our lives when we experienced some of Job’s troubles. Recently, I had a Job-like year. A wonderful sister who was a co-worker and dear friend was diagnosed with cancer. For over a year she bravely underwent treatments and hospital stays. Her family, friends and our religious community supported her in every way possible, especially with prayer. It certainly was a test of faith. Like Job, we questioned why someone with her kind and generous heart had to suffer; she questioned why she couldn’t return to a ministry that she loved. Where do we turn for answers? Do we turn to Jesus? 

In the Gospel, Jesus cures Peter’s mother-in-law and “many who were sick with various diseases.” It seems that he cured all who came to him with a problem, not turning anyone away. Why then was our friend not cured? Of course, there are many layers of answers to this question. Some might say it is better not to ask “why.” But our human heart searches, especially when it has been broken by grief. Our human heart needs to know that our relationship with God is reliable, that God truly is a loving and merciful father who cares for us. We want to see Jesus as the face of that loving compassion. By questioning, are we putting God “on trial” as Job finally did in the book that bears his name? Do we need another perspective?  

These “why” questions have been tearing at the fabric of my heart for a very long time. My friend’s sickness and death caused a new wound. This Sunday’s readings challenged me to reflect again on the questions and on my own faith in God. 

In searching I found something helpful in the book, “The Cultural World of Jesus” by John J. Pilch. He distinguishes disease from illness: disease is a biomedical malfunction and illness is a rupture of social connections and a loss of life’s meaning because of sickness. “Curing is aimed at disease; it is a rare occurrence. Healing is aimed at illness; it occurs infallibly all the time for all people.” Jesus both cures and restores people to community and meaning. Can I believe that Jesus was at work constantly healing my friend and all of us who loved her? That he is still holding out his hand to continue healing our broken hearts? 

Our faith knows that Jesus is present in the healing; our faith believes that in all the suffering and anguish Jesus is present giving us strength and hope. We find this solace in Jesus’ example of prayer — “Rising early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” Prayer was Jesus’ touchstone and he encourages us to make it ours. Especially in our times of brokenness and sorrow we need to take time for prayer. We need to be with the Holy One whose constant promise is to be with us! In every age, in every relationship that is recorded in the Scriptures, God’s mantra is “I will be with you.” Prayer helps us to really hear those words on a deeper level and to believe, with all our heart, that “God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”


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