The True Miracles of Healing

The photo of Pope Francis embracing the man disfigured so terribly shook me, challenged me, and brought me to tears. Could I do that? Would I do that? I've thought of myself as a Christian, but considering myself a "healer" still makes me uneasy.
However, healing is integral both to living the Good News and walking in the footsteps of Pope Francis, Saint Francis, and other servant leaders. The challenge for many of us is to move past the narrow images we have of healing. Yes, it is a miracle, but it is more ubiquitous than we think. Most servant leaders tend to be healers without even knowing it. They seek to patch up hurting relationships. They do not fear forgiveness. They step in when someone needs a hand or a caring listener. All these actions can bring healing: making whole again.

The man in the photo, Vinicio Riva, was not healed of his neurofibromatosis, a genetic disease that leaves him covered with non-infectious sores. But he did experience another healing. He said about the Pope's embrace, "I felt I was returning home ten years younger, as if a load had been lifted. I feel stronger and happier. I feel I can move ahead because the Lord is protecting me."

Likewise, we don't hear stories of Francis of Assisi healing lepers of their leprosy. But he did embrace them, love them, serve them, and help them feel God was "protecting" them.

Jesus told John the Baptist's disciples, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them" (Matt. 11:4-5). In Luke's gospel, Jesus declares to his followers: God "has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free" (4:18). Healing is what servant leaders did when Jesus lived, when Francis lived, and now in our lifetimes.

Pope Francis is just the latest person to challenge me to be a healer. God, give me the grace to help make the broken whole again.