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Aug 12, 2014 | The Rev. Freda Marie Brown

Healing Begins with Sense of God’s Reality

“Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew, Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5: 2-6)


[Diolog Magazine] What did it take for the invalid to be healed in this text from the Gospel of John? As many times as I’ve read or heard this scene, I am always surprised at Jesus’ question and the invalid’s subsequent reply. Our Lord asks, “Do you want to be made well?” Our Lord asks. The invalid, instead of actually answering the question, proceeds to lay out his reality. Healing, as he knows it, is based upon his ability to get to the water touched by God. This is all he knows. It is all he has ever known. He waits year in and year out. He wonders and waits and hopes because he only knows one reality, only one way that his healing can occur. How much is this invalid like me, like us, waiting for wholeness in our lives that we are sure can only happen in our prescribed way? According to our own map of reality?


Throughout the Gospels, the healings of Our Lord occur in the context of a variety of circumstances, but with a common sacramental aspect and with a single map of Reality which is God’s Kingdom—the rule and will of God. Either by word, or touch, or saliva, Jesus, God’s Messiah, restores the relationship between God and broken humanity. He restores us to Paradise where we are ONE in Love in the communion of the Father and the Son and united by the Spirit. Within this community, there exists only the creating, life-giving love of the Creator suffused with joy for the ones who are made in the Creator’s image. These ones were made in the communion of LOVE for the sake of LOVE. Only their good is desired by the communion of Love; only their healing and wholeness. It is a reality that transcends the comprehensible. It is a reality with a map unlike any we have ever known.


The very earliest Christian communities believed that healing was a given in the Kingdom of God. They anointed with oil and prayed for healing and saw healing occur according to Scriptures. There were other healers too, during that time, but those healers didn’t have what the Church had; that is love-in-community birthed out of communion with the Triune God. The early Church’s map of reality had changed and was far more vast than the immediacy of their physical senses. Their reality included the transpersonal and transcendent and inexplicable as well. Their reality was posited on God “creator of the seen and unseen.” They were open to the possibilities available under God’s Will by the power of the Holy Spirit working through them. No wonder it took catechumens three years to become full members of the Christian community.


Fast forward to the 21st century, post-modern age and ask what is our current map of reality? What does healing mean and how does it occur for us? Are we astute enough to include not just our bodies, but our minds, our souls and our relationships as being in need of healing? Are we open and receptive to God’s map of Reality since we cannot fully comprehend it nor control or manipulate it? 


The invalid of John’s Gospel encountered Jesus and through this encounter he came face-to-face with God’s reality. His life was never the same. I imagine it took humility and openness for him to accept that his way of seeing things did not work and that perhaps there was a better way. Life is always like that. It takes humility to accept an alternative perspective; it takes humility coupled with grace to accept that God wants better things for us than we can desire or pray for; that God’s reality for us is better than our own. It takes humility and love to abide in the vine and to know that the wholeness of the Holy Trinity heals in the face of the brokenness that surrounds us and is within us. May we, the Church, be granted this humility and love today for the fuller manifestation of God’s Reality in our day. 


Brown is the new executive director of St. Vincent’s House, Galveston.