RAISE THE DEAD!?
An ambulance came in front of the reception of the Ashram. A young lady completely exhausted came hurrying to me. “Father, bless my brother, he will be alright. Please, Father, we have no time. Soon Father”. My presumption was about some terminal patient who was abandoned from the hospital as nothing more was to be done. Alas! What I saw when the door of the ambulance was opened was a corpse wrapped in white cloth brought after the post mortem. A sister not yet out of the shock of the death of her 25 year old brother. She was continually requesting me to wake him by my blessing. While I was trying to make her accept the reality of death, her companions in seethe yelled “You are all miracle workers. Make him stand”. The reproof of the father of the girl and the dead young man is still crisp in my memory. “You educate these people”.
Under the great banner of “Preaching and Healing ministry” the conventions that began in Kerala around 30 years before through the guidance of retreat centres and charismatic renewal later spread in and out of Kerala and even to the foreign countries that created great ripples not only in the hearts of the Christian community but even the non-believers which is so incredible. It is totally an undisputed thing that its influence was not only in the spiritual circles, but it was experienced even in the social, political and financial circles. A special fervour towards the church, sacraments and the word of God, family renewal, truthful conversions, and fresh steps in charity were all initiatives proving the works of the Holy Spirit. The Laity got a renewed realization of their roles in the Church and these years saw a surge in their participation in the preaching ministry.
Even while approving the good things that happened in the retreat centres and preaching ministries, we can’t keep our eyes closed to some unhealthy trends which grew along with it as ‘weeds’. It created a distorted perspective of the human life. The grave passion of the human heart for bliss and enjoyment expresses itself as efforts to save oneself from pain, hard work, sickness, suffering and death. And furthermore, for someone it turned out to be a purpose of spiritual exercises. Faith and the confidence which it should yield became extinct and instead of standing on one’s own feet through utilizing the abilities and strength given by God many became feeble by depending on the preachers and the counsellors in the retreat centres. “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh 1:9). God is always exhorting us to look for his presence which is so close to us. Even then, many shouts out as if God is not near.
When we are not able to see sickness, suffering and death as the realities of life, we doubt about the hidden causes behind it and hence will be in an uncertainty. Exegesis away from the contexts and the preaching of such people who cannot understand the Jesus’s teaching in its entirety have led many into superstitions and wrong notions. Those who could not understand the healings and messages announced from the retreat and convention centres fell into an excessive hope and not receiving what they prayed for finally lost their faith. While the word of God testifies that Jesus healed many, is it right to think that everyone who met and touched Jesus got healed? Is all sickness meant for healing? Does the one who changes everything for our good (Rom. 8:28) won’t he change the sickness also accordingly? As many found Jesus through healing aren’t there many who heard the voice of God in the midst of severe painful burning bush experiences? More than in good times, the life gains strength and learns to live for his neighbour through trials and tribulations. Won’t it be like this that the wheat grain falling to the ground yield fruit? “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees” (Ps 119:71).
What Jesus gives is a holistic healing and salvation. Temporary and limited healings may not link to the eternal salvation. When many who claimed to have received miraculous healing turn to paths not leading to salvation, it is good to remember the warning which Jesus gave to the paralytic patient. “Do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you” (Jn 5:14). We also reflect about the final judgement in this Lenten season. “I was sick and you visited me” (Mat 25: 31-40) is what Jesus told and not that “I was sick and you healed me”! May all the sick hear the sound of Jesus speaking “My grace is sufficient for you, for my grace is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cori 12:9).