17 July 1988
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
Time and again we read in the Gospel that someone came to the Lord Jesus Christ asking for healing, asking to be restored to wholeness either in soul or in body – or rather in both; and every time the Lord asks him whether he can believe that God can do this for him.
A feature which strikes me in all these stories is that everyone who came and was able to respond to God by saying, ‘I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!’ or (say) ‘Yes, Lord, I do believe’ – everyone of them was a man or a woman who had done all that was humanely possible to be restored to health and wholeness, and who had failed; or perhaps should we say whom human help had failed. The kind of faith that brought people to Christ asking to do the impossible was the fact that they cried for help out of despair. Not the kind of despair that makes us doubt that God can help, but (the) certainty, acquired at times through long years of suffering and struggle, the certainty that no human agency could effect what was needed. A priest whom I knew said to me once, ‘Christian hope is not this side of despair, it does not consist in saying “it will not happen to me” or “God can add His strength to my efforts”; Christian hope begins at the moment when we have understood that no one but God; that neither my own exertion or anyone's help can do what I need.
We must ask ourselves about our own faith: is our faith, when we cry to God for help, bold of the certainty both of the fact that all human efforts have been, are and shall be vain, and yet, that God can do the impossible, what is humanly unthinkable but can be done by the power of the Living God.
This is an important thing, because so often we pray, we cry to God with all our need, desperately, we cry to God but we do not let go of other means; we cry to God asking to add His strength to ours, add His wisdom to the wisdom of those who surround us: He must only add something, without expecting to do all that has (was ?) to be done.
Another feature which we find in the Gospel concerning healing is the role of those people who surround the person who is in desperate need of help, who has used up all human efforts in vain; it is the fact that so often he is brought to Christ or at least surrounded by people who in compassion, in true concern, in the simplicity but also the wholeness of human love come with him, adding as it were, to his need the power of their collective faith. I say ‘collective’, because the faith of each may be so frail, but the love and the unity of all makes it strong. And this applies of course not only to the sufferer, not only to what we read in the Gospel, but also to all of us. How many needs there are in our midst! How many people in mortal agony of mind, in physical illness, in all the needs which a human being or a human family can have. And so often it is in their loneliness that they stand before God.
They stand before God, indeed – they come to God not because they have tried everything in vain, but because they have been abandoned by everyone, and, therefore, have no one to turn to. And this is a quite different thing from the first situation of which I spoke.
Let us think of this also, of our mutual responsibility, of the fact that things d o become possible when two or three are gathered together. In one of the prayers of the Liturgy we say that we believe that if we agree – and this is a word of Christ – if two or three agree on a l l things, their prayer will be answered. ‘In all things!’ that is in a continuous relationship of mutual solidarity; not by creating momentary coalitions and turning to God as a group at one moment in order to dissolve, separate at another, but come because mutual concern, mutual love, mutual solidarity, the sense that each of them is – or can be, shall be one day in the same desperate need brings people together, not for a moment, but definitively,
Let us reflect on these two aspects of our personal faith when we cry to God: is it out of the certainty that He alone can help, or in the hope that He will add what is lacking to our own ability to solve our problems? And also ask ourselves how many there are in our midst who need what we find in the Gospel: people who are s o concerned with them that they bring them to God, fading away, bring them to God Alone in the certainty that God will respond to this mutual love, and to this need, and to this faith. Amen.