Fr. Jerry Cusumano, S.J.
Healing and the Healer
Healing can be quite a simple act. The mother who applies her own saliva to the scraped knee of her 3-year old produces healing. The child stops crying immediately. At the same time healing is multi-faceted. What caused the healing of the child? It seems that human saliva does indeed have medicinal qualities so that may have contributed. Or more important was it the physical touch (skinship) of the mother which brought the healing? Or perhaps it was the affectionate caring of the mother which soothed the child at once.
Sonja Lyubomirsky has brought out in her book, The How of Happiness, an aspect of healing that has been overlooked, namely, the good effects that healing has on the healer. She shows, using solid psychology research results, that performing kind acts to others, and especially forgiving others, brings many physiological as well as psychological benefits to the one performing those acts. The healer is also healing him/herself.
Jesus the Healer.
When we look at the healing stories of Jesus in the Gospels, of course, healing involves not only physical and psychological components but spiritual aspects also. A very instructive healing miracle is that of the woman with the flow of blood. She is unclean, a category for the Jews of that day that seemed to be more serious than sin itself. Furthermore, those who touch her will be made unclean. To save Jesus from “becoming unclean” she tries to touch his cloak secretly so that no one will see. She also seems to have hoped for a type of magical healing in this way.
However, Jesus not only heals her, he also instructs her to dispel her belief in a magical healing. He shows his compassion for the suffering outweighs any fear of becoming unclean himself. Finally, Jesus does not say: “I did it. I healed you.” That is to say he doesn’t boast about himself and his powers. Rather he tells her that her own faith has healed her, thus giving her something even more valuable than her physical healing.
Mary, Helper of Healers
With the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes approaching we also recall the healing ministry of Mary in our world. The investigation for the possible beatification of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, former General of the Jesuits, has begun. It is good to recall that his own conversion seems to have begun at Lourdes. While still a medical student he spent time at Lourdes investigating the healings there. He was quite skeptical before going, but his experience there changed him radically. One can only wonder about the reason he was so successful treating victims of the A-bomb at a time when no one knew how to deal with radiation. Of the over 150 patients he cared for at the Jesuit Novitiate in Nagatsuka only one died. How did he hit upon the right treatment if not from the aid of Mary to whom he had a great devotion?
Becoming a Healer
How can we become healers? As always first of all for us is to look to the life of Jesus and learn healing from him. We then ask him through the intercession of his mother for the grace to become a healer to those we meet who need our healing. And finally we can also recall the benefits to the healer which can provide us motivation on the human level.