From Exile to Hope: Just say the Word and I shall be healed

From Exile to Hope: Just say the Word and I shall be healed

March 08, 2023

Just say the Word and I shall be healed

By: Rev. Dr. Mary Lautzenhiser Bellon

In Mark’s Gospel there is a story, repeated in Luke, of a man coming into the synagogue in Capernaum as Jesus was teaching. The scripture says the man had an “unclean spirit” and cries out, “What have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth?” And Jesus goes on to rebuke the spirit, “Be silent and come out of him,” and the unclean spirit does leave the man immediately.  (cf. Mark 1: 21-28; Luke 4: 31-37)
Because the man with the unclean spirit refers to himself as we and us, we the readers are to understand that inside this person is a sense of division and fragmentation. Inside he is not whole. His world is painful because he feels tossed and turned by many voices, perhaps many needs and demands, maybe too much confusion.  And Jesus silences the many competing voices and restores the man, heals him, makes him whole. 
The life that Jesus is calling us to invites us to see and to have this authority to heal and to be healed. Mark is giving us a manual of what it means – how we are going to be involved with some remarkable if not miraculous stuff.  I would say it is the beginning of a life of healing, and this kind of healing asks us for everything: it asks us for the healing of our inner worlds and the healing of the outer world. 
In one of her poems from the collection A Cry Like a Bell Madeleine L’Engle puts these words into the mouth of a disciple:
“I have gone out searching for you
Into the tumult of the midnight sky –
The swirling life of stars too many to count,
And have been deafened by the rush of wind,
And now you ask me to look within,
Away from the vast and echoing sound without."
I think as we hear the call of God, there is a part inside of all of us that starts down the dusty journey of life’s road to find once again -- or perhaps to find for the first time -- whether the eternal mystery and the eternal love are there for us.  And each of us wonders whether the things that have fragmented us or the stones that block our way can be healed. Can our unclean spirits be made well? Perhaps we are fragmented because of a profound grief or a difficult relationship or a great loss of some sort.   Perhaps a stone of regret blocks our way. Perhaps it is the shadow of loneliness or a feeling of indifference that makes everything bland and colorless.  
And deep in our hearts, hearts that have been called out into the tumult of the midnight sky, hearts that have been called to look inward, we know that once more we must approach the place where God speaks to us, where God intercedes for us with the same authority that he did so long ago when he healed this man we hear about in the Gospel of Mark.  Just be silent a minute, Jesus might say to us, be still and let those burdens come out of you so you can find healing.  

And If we are listening in those moments of deep silence -- perhaps in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep and the thoughts are running through your head or maybe for you it’s in the early morning when the house is still quiet and you feel those great vast feelings -- maybe then if we are listening again to the voice of God who has called us, we decide today we will talk to someone about our pain or today we will reach again for those who love us or today we will talk back to God in our prayer life or in our prayer journals or in the car on the way to work.  Maybe we will do contemplative prayer or meditation. Maybe we will do some yoga and end with a quiet resting. And by doing something like this, or something else, we will agree to let the healing begin.  We will believe this impossible thing that Jesus can say the word and we shall be healed, even if the word that is said to us means there are things we must do at last:  we must believe that we matter and that we are meant to be whole and that we are meant to be loved and to love; and that even in illnesses that cannot be cured, God heals us by giving us His strength and His abiding comfort which is so beyond what any one person can offer it feels like a miracle. It is a miracle. 
I don’t know if you have ever been to a Catholic Mass, but just before taking Communion or what is also called The Eucharist, the people say in the liturgy, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”  This line is a reference to another healing in the New Testament found in Matthew when Jesus heals the servant of the Roman pagan the Centurion, and this man says these words as he asks for Jesus’ help.  (cf. Matthew 8:8)
It is this same hope repeated in so many ways throughout the Gospels: “Just say the word Lord, and I shall be healed, my child shall be healed, my friend shall be healed, my mother shall be healed, my spouse shall be healed – even, my enemy shall be healed.”
I’ve always felt that it carries such profound meaning. Not necessarily that all my troubles or burdens will suddenly be gone. Not that injuries will magically be no more. But really because I have heard Jesus calling me to a life of love and wholeness, I can be made whole or as John Wesley the founder of Methodism said, “I can be made perfect in love in this life.”  You know, when any of us are ordained, we have to confess before the Bishop and the gathered Annual Conference that we believe this.  That we can be made perfect in love in this life. Not that we are now or yet, but that God’s healing power is so complete that it is possible as we walk the road of life that we can be healed to that level of perfection.  And when I made my confession almost 35 years ago now that I did believe that, I can tell you, I still believe it today. I believe it for me and I believe it for you who are reading this.
In his seminal book The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen says:
“It is my growing conviction that in Jesus the mystical and the revolutionary ways are not opposites, but two sides of the same human mode of experiential transcendence. I am increasingly convinced that conversion is the individual equivalent of revolution. Therefore, every real revolutionary is challenged to be a mystic at heart, and he who walks the mystical way is called to unmask the illusory quality of human society.” (The Wounded Healer; Henri Nouwen. P. 19)
What does this mean for us? It means that we have to do our inner work with the same energy we do our outer work. The revolution of the soul that comes from a life in Christ, that healing energy, is both for the inside of a person and the outside world. Sometimes I think we in the Protestant community forget this so eager are we to do the good thing in the world. And you bet we should be doing those good works. Faith without works is dead said the author of the Letter of James. But we are being invited to the inner work too, into the room where it happens to quote Hamilton. Your room. Your inner world. The place where the unclean spirits can fragment you or make you sick. We must do that work too, so that we are strong enough to do the outer work. We invite the loving energy of God to make us whole. And that is how we become the Wounded Healers. The people who have felt the slings and arrows of life, and have let the voice of God say a word to us, and are equipped then with compassion and patience and insight to do as Jesus has done: to call out the world to healing.  
Soozie Holbeche has a beautiful image of how the world is healed in her book The Way Ahead. She writes:

“I am reminded of the story of the teacher who tears to shreds a map of the world and, thinking it an impossible task, gives it to a recalcitrant student to put together. Within ten minutes the boy is back, the task completed. Astounded, the teacher asks him how he did it. The boy replies, “When I turned the pieces over, I found a torn-up man. I put him together and when I looked at the other side the world was whole again.” (In Spiritual Literacy; Reading the Sacred in Everyday Life. Ed: Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. pp 354-5)
I found a torn-up person and I put them together again and when I looked at the other side the world was whole again.  That is the image of the healing we are called to. And to do it, we must allow our own torn up pieces to be put together again. We must allow ourselves that commitment. It is the way of the Wounded Healers that are you and me.  Just say the Word, and we are healed, Lord. 

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