By Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap
ROME, JAN. 25, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Gospel passage for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time closes with these words: "Jesus went about all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and infirmity of the people."
About one-third of the Gospel is concerned with the healings performed by Jesus during the brief time of his public life. It is impossible to eliminate these miracles or try to give a natural explanation to them without pulling apart the whole Gospel and making it incomprehensible.
The miracles of the Gospel have unmistakable characteristics. They are never done to stupefy or promote the one who does them. Some today allow themselves to be enchanted by certain people who possess powers of levitation, or who can make objects appear and disappear, or who can do other things of this sort. Who gains anything from these types of miracles, supposing that they are miracles? Only those who perform them; they recruit disciples or make money.
Jesus works miracles out of compassion, because he loves people. He also works miracles to help them believe. He heals, ultimately, to proclaim that God is the God of life and that, in the end, together with death, sickness too will be defeated and "there will be no more mourning nor weeping."
It is not only Jesus who heals, but he also orders his disciples to do the same after him: "He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the infirm" (Luke 9:2). "Preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick" (Matthew 10:7ff.). We always find the two things linked: preaching the Gospel and healing the sick.
Man has two ways to try to overcome his infirmities: nature and grace. Nature indicates intelligence, science, medicine, technology; grace indicates direct recourse to God, through faith and prayer and the sacraments. The latter are the means that the Church has at its disposal to "heal the sick."
Evil begins when we try to take a third route: the way of magic, that which appeals to a person's supposed hidden powers, which are not based on science nor on faith. In such a case, either we are dealing with a total charlatan and illusion or, what is worse, with the enemy of God.
It is not hard to determine when we are dealing with a true gift of healing and when it is a magical counterfeit. In the first case the person never attributes the results that are obtained to his own powers, but to God; in the second case people are doing nothing other than showing off their own pretended "extraordinary powers."
When you read advertisements that claim so-and-so the magician "succeeds where others fail," "solves all problems," "is recognized to have extraordinary powers," "expels demons, rids you of the evil eye," you need not have a moment's doubt: You are dealing with a fraud. Jesus said that demons are chased out by "fasting and prayer," not by giving people money!
But we must ask ourselves another question: What about those people who, despite everything, are not healed? What do you think? Do they not have faith? Does God not love them?
If the persistence of a disease were a sign that a person did not have faith, or that God does not love him, we would have to say that the saints had the least amount of faith and that they were the least loved by God, because some of them spent their whole lives in bed. No, the answer is different.
God's power is not manifested in just one way, say, in eliminating evil or in physical healings. God's power also manifests itself in giving the ability, and sometimes the joy, of carrying our own cross with Christ and in making up what is lacking in his sufferings.
Christ also redeemed suffering and death. It is no longer the sign of sin, participation in Adam's fault, but rather it is the instrument of redemption.
[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]
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Father Raniero Cantalamessa is the Pontifical Household preacher. The readings for this Sunday are Isaiah 9:1-4; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17; Matthew 4:12-23.