BEFORE THE CROSS | Jesus the healer

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

Lisa Johnston |

The Gospels give abundant witness to Jesus' desire and ability to heal those in need. In the Gospels of Mark and Luke, Jesus' public ministry begins with acts of healing. Whether of an unclean spirit, of an ailing body, or both at once, healing isn't just one among many aspects of Jesus' mission -- it's the fundamental pattern behind his every word and deed.

Jesus' healing mission reaches its climax in the events of the Paschal Mystery -- His Passion, death, and Resurrection. Every healing that He accomplished in His earthly ministry is fundamentally oriented toward this final and definitive victory over sin and death. Each healing episode is a twofold sign for us: 1) that His victory over sin and death is already at work in the world; and 2) that He wants us to share in His victory through the healing of our bodies and souls.

Among the stories of healing told in the Gospels, we can look to the healing of the paralytic (Matthew 9: 1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:18-26) as a high point and a prototype because of the way it combines physical healing and the forgiveness of sins.

"When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that He was at home. Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and He preached the word to them. They came bringing to Him a paralytic carried by four men. Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above Him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, 'Child, your sins are forgiven.' Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, 'Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?' Jesus immediately knew in His mind what they were thinking to themselves, so He said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth" -- He said to the paralytic, 'I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.' He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this'" (Mark 2:1-12).

This episode makes the total character of Jesus' healing mission clear. Whether we are afflicted with infirmities of the body or sicknesses of the soul -- or both at once -- He came to make us whole. And in His crucifixion and resurrection, we see that the healing He offers is neither temporary nor partial, but complete and opening up into life eternal.

Different facets of Jesus' healing mission are illuminated by the healing stories contained in the Gospels. A few points I would like to emphasize in a special way, so that we might be drawn more readily to the Sacrament of Penance as a sacrament of healing, a sacrament in which we are invited to share in the definitive victory of Jesus over sin and death. In the next few columns, I'll concentrate on three points in particular: 1) Jesus' desire to heal; 2) the role of faith in healing; and 3) the power of Jesus' physical presence.

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's calendar

Monday, Oct. 13

9 a.m. Catholic Leadership Institute priority planning meeting

4 p.m. Welcome address for the Canon Law Society of America convention at St. Louis Union Station Doubletree Hotel

Tuesday, Oct. 14

9:30 a.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks at the Preaching for Excellence bishops' meeting at Aquinas Institute of Theology

Noon Priest Personnel Board meeting

Wednesday, Oct. 15

5 p.m. Mass for Canon Law Society of America convention at St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Church

Thursday, Oct. 16

12:30 p.m. Priest Council meeting

3:15 p.m. Kenrick-Glennon Seminary board of trustees meeting

Friday, Oct. 17

10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Priest Day at the archbishop's residence

3:30 p.m. Gateway Liturgical Conference panel discussion

Saturday, Oct. 18

5 p.m. Mass and reception for St. Luke the Evangelist Church Centennial Celebration

Sunday, Oct. 19

10 a.m. World Mission Sunday Mass at Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

5 p.m. Procession with a relic of St. Louis, followed by Evening Prayer and Benediction to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the City of St. Louis, at St. Francis de Sales Oratory 

Bishop Edward M. Rice's calendar

Monday, Oct. 13

7 p.m. Mass for Knights of Columbus deceased members at St. Joseph Church, Cottleville

Tuesday, Oct. 14

7:30 a.m. Spanish Mass at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary

8:30 a.m. Preaching for Excellence bishops' meeting at Aquinas Institute of Theology

Noon Priest Personnel Board meeting

3:45 p.m. St. Charles Deanery meeting

5 p.m. Meals Program, Sts. Peter and Paul Church

Wednesday, Oct. 15

11:15 a.m. Mass at St. Andrew's at Francis Place

6:30 p.m. Apostles of the Sacred Heart at Kemoll's

Thursday, Oct. 16

9:30 a.m. Mass at St. Margaret Mary Alacoque Church

12:30 p.m. Priest Council Meeting

Friday, Oct. 17

7:30 a.m. Mass and Breakfast with Daughters of St. Paul 

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