One of the most common and yet profoundly humbling requests we get as priests are requests for prayers. It is even more humbling when the request for prayers is for the healing of someone.
Healing lies at the core of Christ’s mission. Henri Nouwen’s classic work beautifully states this in the title of the book, “The Wounded Healer.” I believe all mission, our personal mission or vocation or purpose, is a sharing in and a continuation of Christ’s mission. Thus, all mission is healing in nature.
The default understanding of healing involves physical ailment, but more and more we understand healing also as psycho-emotional and spiritual. As our view of the person becomes more holistic, we see healing that leads to wholeness. From this wholeness, holiness in the spiritual sense arises.
This Sunday’s Gospel narrates two dramatic healing stories. Their drama lies not only in the healing, but also in the plea for it.
Jairus, the synagogue official, begs on behalf of a loved one, his 12-year-old daughter. He sets aside all things—his social status, his pride and prejudice—for the sake of a loved one. Not only does he beg, but also he falls at Christ’s feet.
The woman suffering from hemorrhages for 12 years squeezes herself into the crowd in the earnest hope she could at least touch the tassel of Christ’s robe. This reminds you of the woman who tells Christ, in another narrative, that even the dogs get a share of the meal from the scraps that fall from the table.
Dramatic portraits of humility. Dramatic portraits of hope. These merit dramatic graces of healing.
There is much to learn from these narratives in our own journey toward healing; in our journey to live a mission-inspired life.
The Filipino word for healing adds an insight to this grace, pagpapagaling. To heal and to make whole and in the process bring out the best in the person, the excellence he/she was meant to live out; galing, our giftedness, our core excellence.
Recently, I started a formation program for 150 teachers and their principals from five public schools in a city north of Manila, with the assistance of Pagcor. The program holds the belief that formation is about self-awareness and self-acceptance that leads to healing and wholeness, the first two stages of formation. We looked at living a mission-inspired life as the goal of formation.
This third stage of a mission-inspired life naturally flows from the experience of healing and wholeness. For the teachers and principals, we set a specific context for their mission, the mission to care in education, loving students into excellence. This is a formation program primarily based on Ignatian spirituality.
Ignatius was very keen on self-awareness. It was the starting point of formation and now, close to 500 years later, even the recent, i.e., two or three decades old, field of leadership studies have many of its scholars reaching a consensus that good leadership begins with good self-awareness.
The drama of the plea for healing of Jairus and the hope of the woman in Christ show us the depth of their self-awareness. Note that they had the resources to address their needs and when they did everything they could, they discovered what was essential.
Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J., used to tell us in our philosophy classes: “Matapos mong masabi ang lahat ng masasabi, ang pinakamahalaga ay hindi masasabi.” (After you say everything that could be said, the most important or essential cannot be said or spoken.) This is the depth of self-awareness Jairus and the woman reached in turning to Christ.
This is the depth of faith and hope that people who earnestly ask for prayers for healing reach when they hit rock bottom. It is a realization, an awareness of the divine.
The prayer, “Lord, heal us,” is a plea for wholeness and holiness; a prayer to bring out the best in us, “pagalingin mo kami.” Our self-awareness reaches a depth where we become aware of the divine in us.
The grace of this realization is freedom, spiritual freedom. This is the healing. We become free and it is a freedom from the self and all that imprisons us. As the healing deepens, we regain our wholeness and integrity, integrating even our sinfulness.
Parker Palmer writes, “My life is not only about my strengths and virtues; it is also about my liabilities and my limits, my trespasses and my shadow. An inevitable though often ignored dimension of the quest for ‘wholeness’ is that we must embrace what we dislike or find shameful about ourselves as well as what we are confident and proud of.” (From “Let Your Life Speak”)
The healing we pray for is, yes, physical, but it deepens into a psycho-emotional healing. And it is spiritual healing that leads us not just to a freedom from self and sin, but a freedom for a mission-inspired life for God and others, a freedom for excellence; “Pagalingin mo ako,” to love and to serve with our entire self, integrated and whole.