Readings: Psalm 42; Zechariah 8:1-17; Matthew 8:14-17, 28-34
When Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought him to many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” Matthew 8:14-17, NRSV
Most of the healings in the gospels are pretty dramatic. Leprosy, withered hands, paralysis, violent demon possession. This one is not so spectacular. There’s no dramatic confrontation with a wild man in a synagogue, no thunderous rebuke of an evil spirit. It’s just a tender scene: Jesus goes into Simon Peter’s house and finds his mother-in-law sick in bed with a fever. Like most fevers it’ll probably run its course in a few days. No one said, Come quickly and heal this woman! Jesus was just there to have lunch and finds, by the way, that Peter’s mother-in-law is sick. He simply walks over to her bed and takes her by the hand. He lifts her up, and the fever leaves her.
It’s very ordinary. Very domestic. That scene is repeated a thousand times over every day in hospitals and nursing homes, and in homes like our own. Anytime anybody gets touched, reached out to in their pain, lifted up, it’s nothing short of miraculous.
Most of us wouldn’t think of ourselves as healers, wouldn’t claim we had the touch of miracle in our hands. But we have all been laid low—by physical diseases of body or mind, by grief in loss, by trauma of wind or fire or water. Then all that mattered was that we were not alone, that someone was there to stand with us, put an arm around our shoulder, hold our hand.
On a May night in 1998 I received a call that got me out of bed. My church was on fire. By the time I drove three minutes to the scene, the building was engulfed in flames. For the next five or six hours I stood and watched the horror, as the fire spread from the school—where it had started—to the beautiful parish hall with its oak-beamed cathedral ceiling, and finally to the sanctuary itself. The night air was cool and I began to shake and shudder. I didn’t realize it, but my body was in shock. Thankfully, others realized what was happening to me and came to hold me, to make me sit down, wrap a blanket around me, hug me, tell me we were going to get through this, together.
That’s a healing. That’s a miracle. That touch was as divine as the famous finger of God reaching across the Sistine ceiling to touch the outstretched hand of Adam with the life of all creation. And just because it happens all the time is no reason not to be momentarily dumbfounded.
After lecturing learnedly on miracles, a great theologian was asked to give a specific example of one. “There is only one miracle,” he answered. “It is life.”
That is what we acknowledge in one another when we reach out, whenever we stand beside a sickbed, whenever we receive a troubling story. When we touch another person in need, when we refuse to let them be alone in their suffering, we are healers (even if we’d never say that of ourselves!), we are witness to a miracle.
Offered by David Anderson, child of God.