Following graduation from seminary, my academic dean suggested that I spend several months interning as a chaplain. Shortly thereafter I moved to Colorado Springs to enroll in the chaplaincy program. Being a chaplain at a large Catholic hospital gave me new insight into the difference between curing and healing. This particular hospital intentionally focused on healing the whole person rather than curing a particular illness. This meant, as chaplains, it was expected that we would ask patients who were battling cancer, heart issues and those facing death, tough questions about finding hope in their circumstances. I remember one particular guy, Mac, who had just been told that he had 4 months or less to live. My first visit to his room happened shortly after he had received this devastating news. When asked about where he found hope in this news, he began to cry. He told me expecting him to find hope in his death was a tough question. As a new chaplain, I was unsure of how to react to his tears. Inside I panicked because it felt like I had been insensitive to his overwhelming news and I didn’t know how to fix it for him. Together we were able to work through his tears and engage in a number of heart-felt conversations about his family, his faith and his health. Within a week he was discharged to a care facility and I never saw him again.
Jesus did not reprimand him for his inability to see beyond his circumstances but in verse 8 gave him 3 simple directions for healing, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” The man was not healed because of his faith. He never asked to be healed. But by healing him, Jesus changed the course of his life. Like most people, the man was focused on his chronic disability and his inability to be move toward the water and be healed. Was he satisfied with his predicament and unwilling to try and change his circumstances? How often are we like the man and choose to remain the victim instead of embracing new opportunities or choices that may change our future? How many times do we let life happen to us instead of seeking to trust the One who tells us to “stand up, take our mat and walk?” Both Mac and the man were given difficult questions to answer. One found hope in choosing to finish life well for his family and the other was given a new life so that he could finally start living. How would you answer the question, “Do you want to be made well?”