It is so that the works of God might be made visible through him (Jn 9:3).
As an adult, as a mother, and as a wife, I am often overwhelmed by the sickness and suffering in the world around me. This past year’s pandemic hasn’t helped.
Encountering this Sunday’s Gospel, John 9:1-41, reminded me that as a child I was sometimes able to see suffering completely differently—as an opportunity for God to work. When my family was living as missionaries in the Philippines, I frequently suffered from severe tonsillitis. One year we had traveled to Manila for my little brother, Joseph, to be born, and once again I became very sick. I had a high fever and an extremely sore throat, but when we went to the doctor what worried him most was that my tonsils were becoming so inflamed that they might prevent me from being able to swallow. He told my Mom that I should have them removed at once.
Returning to our apartment in the city, Mom hurried around getting things ready for our trip to the hospital, and I lay on the couch, suffering tremendously, and worried about the operation. I really didn’t want to go. “Mom,” I croaked, “Can’t we just ask Jesus to heal me?” “We have prayed, Sweetheart,” she assured me. “Sometimes God uses doctors to heal us.” Still, my eight-year-old brain was overwhelmed with anxiety.
“Mom,” I called out again, “If we pray again for God to heal me and I get better, do I still have to get the surgery?” This time Mom was getting frustrated. “I guess if you are completely healed by the time my friend gets here to pick you up in fifteen minutes, you don’t have to go. Completely healed. Understand?”
I got it. Hope rose in me for escaping this unwanted surgery. I asked my Dad and siblings to gather around me and pray for me, which they passionately did. My head continued to burn, my throat throbbed. “I’m sorry, Sarah,” Dad said compassionately, “I think it’s best we take you to the hospital.” “No!” I insisted, “We have ten more minutes, keep praying.” Once more, with increased fervor, Dad laid his hand on my head and begged Jesus to heal me. I felt my Dad’s love, and saw Jesus’ love for me. This time, I felt the fever leaving my body. The pain in my throat went away, followed by all of the troublesome swelling. By the time my parents’ friend arrived ten minutes later to drive us to the hospital, I was completely healed.
This Sunday, reflecting on the healing of the man born blind, I am reminded of the fact that sickness is not punishment. Our sufferings can be what bring us to the feet of Jesus, and at his feet, miracles can and do happen.