|Sumac blooms along the Erie Canal|
While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward,knelt down before him, and said,"My daughter has just died.But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live."Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind himand touched the tassel on his cloak.She said to herself, "If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured."Jesus turned around and saw her, and said,"Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you."And from that hour the woman was cured. Mt 9:18-22The readings from Matthew this past week have been filled with stories of Jesus healing people including bringing them back from the dead and with stories of his casting out devils and demons. These stories are well attested in the canonical gospels as well as other gospels and contemporaneous accounts. Clearly the early Christian communities knew of and believed in the ability of Jesus to cure and give life. That these were expected signs of the Messiah does not undercut the accuracy of these accounts. In fact, today's gospel in Matthew 10 says that Jesus bestowed this power on the apostles as well.
What am I to make of these stories? How do they fit into my own faith and spiritual life? When I was younger, it was easy enough to find "natural explanations" for these healings but that misses the point. The primary miracle, if you will, is the incarnation. If I believe that the Divine One was incarnated as the human Jesus and that he was fully human and fully divine, what's a few healings and exorcisms. It is the incarnation that is important for me and my life.
If the Divine One became accessible as a human being, it was to show us how to live a life that would lead to eternal union with the source of all life. The path he called us to follow is not one that has no difficulties, pain, suffering and ultimately death. No amount of righteous living can result in a life devoid of these human realities. The simple rule of Jesus was that we are to love others--even our enemies--as ourselves. His life demonstrates that such way of living does not eliminate pain and suffering but rather the opposite. Such a life will bring us into a radical conflict with the world and its values and will result in our crucifixtion in small or large ways depending on our life and the extent to which our life threatens the world and the "powers that be." This is what happened to Jesus and surely the same fate awaits us if we have courage enough to live out our values in the midst of a culture that encourages just the opposite.