This Lent, let’s beg Jesus to ‘heal our unbelief’

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“Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked the crippled man by the pool of Bethesda “who had been ill for thirty-eight years” (John 5:5-6). After so many years of sickness, this man seemed to have gotten used to his illness and his feeling of helplessness. His response to Jesus indicated he wished others would fix his problem for him and suggested his despair that no one would: “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up” (John 5:7a). And then he shifted the blame for his failure to be cured: “… while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me” (John 5:7b).

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel, OP

But Jesus desired this man’s healing infinitely more than he desired it himself. Jesus broke through all the man’s excuses and scapegoating with the simple command, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk” (John 5:8). In this moment, Jesus intended not only the man’s physical healing but ultimately and primarily his spiritual healing and freedom. In fact, He later told the man, “Look, you are well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14).

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus performed healing miracles for those who were sick or possessed by demons, and even for those who had died. But while He did desire to bestow physical healing, never did He stop there. Frequently, He called forth a deeper faith from people before He healed them or their loved ones, thereby drawing them into a closer relationship with Himself. To Jairus, before raising his daughter from the dead, He said, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mark 5:36). To the woman with the hemorrhage for twelve years: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction” (Mark 5:34). And to the man whose son was possessed by a mute demon, Jesus exclaimed, “Everything is possible to one who has faith,” eliciting the response, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24). In each case, Jesus seeks to draw them into a relationship of faith and trust in Him. “The deeper healing that Jesus wants to give,” in the words of one of my professors at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, “is that healing which is a relationship with Him.”

This desire of the Lord’s is as much for our healing today as it was for the people with whom He lived on earth. He longs to give us healing, too, especially the deeper spiritual healing that is an intimate relationship with Him. This healing requires of us a response of faith and a willingness to seek conversion, both of which manifest a true desire to be healed. This Lent, may we all seek, through greater faith and conversion, the healing that is a deepened relationship with the Lord.

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.