The Cure to Human Illness and Suffering: Physical and Spiritual (self-gift)
As we have heard in today's Psalm, which says, “The Lord heals the broken-hearted,” so we have seen in the Gospel, where Our Lord meets human suffering head-on. The longer we live on this imperfect earth, corrupted by our human sin, the more true ring these words from the Catechism, paragraphs 1500-1501: Illness and suffering have always been among the gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, man experiences his powerlessness, his limitations, and his finitude. Every illness can make us glimpse death. Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more mature, helping him discern in his life what is not essential so that he can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.
In the first reading, Job is at the bottom of that experience – the absolute low-point. And while it seems that his darkness is insurmountable, God eventually saves Job from his suffering and fills him with joy. The Lord Heals the broken-hearted. Jesus fulfills that divine promise in his mission. Not only does he have power over demons, as saw last week, but today he has Simon's front-door packed with those who are in need of healing. And he does heal them – every single one.
Seen from the lens of our faith, we can perceive that Peter's mother-in-law, who was cured of her fever, can represent every single human being, who spiritually suffers from the “fever” of our fallen human nature – our concupiscence – which constantly tugs our life in a self-centered direction, placing our success, comfort, pleasure, or plans above those of everyone else, even God. This is, in fact, the most critical illness of all of us, for even as a physical illness can steal our bodily life, this spiritual infection can rob us of our eternal happiness in heaven. And this is what Jesus came to heal through his Cross and Resurrection. He was interested in our physical health, sure; but he cared about us more deeply than that – he longed for our souls, too: our whole person.
The mother-in-law of Simon was healed physically (the word “raised up” is the same as the resurrection), and she immediately served those of her household. She forgot about herself. She gave herself. And in doing this, she found herself. This is because she was also healed spiritually, she was re-oriented from that selfishness of her concupiscence to become like God who is Love, like Christ who came to serve and not to be served.
After Jesus finishes ministering to the town of Capernaum, he goes back to the well from which He draws the strength to carry out these good works day-in and day-out until he is Himself physically drained: he goes back to prayer with the Father. This must be seen as another lesson for us – if we wish to persevere in serving God and each other, we must go to the Lord in prayer, rest with Him, and draw from Love itself the strength to be who we are called to be, to give ourselves, to find ourselves.
Praise the Lord who heals the broken-hearted. May He do so for each and every one of us. And indeed he will, if only we have the faith to run to his door and knock.