At some time in our lives each of us is going to have to face serious illness, in ourselves or in someone very close to us. It may be a life-threatening physical illness like the fever that Simon’s mother-in-law had in the Gospel, or it may be a severe mental illness, like the depression that Job was suffering in the first reading this weekend. When life is threatened, our own or that of someone we love, we realise how precious it is. We storm heaven, like the people bringing their sick to Jesus after sunset, begging for a cure. Sometimes there is a cure and the sick person is restored to their former state and their former way of being able to relate to those around them. In other cases, no cure can be found and the sickness leads to death. But healing can take place whether there is a cure or not.
The healing that can happen is a healing of our relationships with ourselves, with others and with God. Discovering that our life is threatened can wake us up to what is really important in life and can bring about changes in the way we think, relate and live in whatever time is left to us. One man who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer said that, after an initial period of distress, something amazing happened: he simply stopped doing everything that wasn’t essential. His terminally ill life became vital and peaceful. Then he was told that his illness was not terminal but rare and curable, and he cried like a baby, because he was afraid his life would go back to the way it used to be. He was afraid that, in being cured, he might lose the healing he had found through his illness.
In many of the detailed accounts of Jesus curing people we hear him say ‘Your sins are forgiven’. His curing of physical and mental illnesses was always linked to a deeper healing of the person and a restoring of their relationship with the Father. Let our prayer for ourselves and for others be a prayer for that deep inner healing.