What Jesus was doing left the Baptist confused. John was waiting for a Messiah who would wipe out sin from the world by imposing God’s rigorous justice, not a Messiah dedicated to healing wounds and alleviating suffering. From the prison of Machaerus he sends a message to Jesus: «Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?».
Jesus answers him with the witness of his life as a healing prophet: «Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, those suffering from virulent skin-diseases are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life and the good news is proclaimed to the poor». This is the true Messiah: the one who comes to alleviate suffering, heal life and open a horizon of hope to the poor.
Jesus feels himself sent by a compassionate Father who wants a more dignified and happy world for everyone. That’s why he gives himself to healing wounds, curing illness and liberating life. And that’s why he asks everyone: «Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate».
Jesus doesn’t see himself as one sent by a rigorous Judge to judge sinners and condemn the world. That’s why he doesn’t frighten anyone with avenging gestures, but offers sinners and prostitutes his friendship and forgiveness. And that’s why he asks us all: «Don’t judge and you will not be judged».
Jesus never heals in an arbitrary way or just to amaze. He heals moved by compassion, looking to restore life for sick people, for the dejected and broken. These are the first ones who should experience that God is a friend of a whole and healthy life.
Jesus never insists on the wondrous aspect of his healings, nor does he think about them as an easy recipe to abolish suffering in the world. He presented his healing activity as a sign to show his followers in what direction we should act in order to open up paths to that humanizing project of the Father that he called «Reign of God».
Pope Francis affirms that «healing wounds» is an urgent task: «I see clearly that what the Church needs today is a capacity to heal wounds». He speaks later on about «taking care of people, accompanying them as the Good Samaritan who washes, cleanses, and consuls». He speaks also of «walking with people in the night, knowing how to dialogue, and even descending to their night and obscurity without getting lost».
When he entrusts his mission to his disciples, Jesus doesn’t see them as university doctors, hierarchs, liturgists or theologians, but as healers. Their task will always be two-fold: heal the sick and announce that God’s Reign is near.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf