“That is Why Jesus Has Come,
to Heal Us”
by Rev. Jorge Jesus Lopez
Thomas Aquinas College, California
Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 4, 2024
A couple of days ago, I watched Society of the Snow, a movie that recounts the saga of the 1972 catastrophe which saw a chartered plane filled with young Uruguayan rugby players crash without trace in the frozen wasteland of the Andes mountains, forcing its remaining passengers to, among many things, resort to the horrors of cannibalism in order to make it through the 72-day ordeal. This movie was made in direct collaboration with several survivors of the tragedy.
One of the most dramatic moments of the movie is the dialogue between Arturo Nogueira, a 21-year-old dying injured survivor, with his friend, Pedro Algorta, who was making fun of him since Arturo had become an altar server at Mass back in Uruguay.
Arturo says to Pedro: “I have more faith in this moment than I had in my entire life ... But my faith, forgive me, is not in your God, because that God tells me what I must do at home, but that God does not tell me what I must to do here in the mountain. What is happening here cannot be seen with the eyes of before. … I believe in another God. I believe in the God that Roberto (another rugbier survivor) has in his head when he comes to heal my wounds. I believe in the God that Nando has in his legs to go for a walk to ask for help. I believe in Daniel’s hands when he cuts the meat and Fito’s when he distributes it without telling us which friend it belonged to … so we can eat it without having to remember his look. I believe in that God. I believe in Roberto, in Nando, in Daniel, in Fito, and in our dead friends”.
Arturo was experiencing the same human tragedy which is presented to us in today’s first reading: Job meets man’s suffering and screams his pain. The Book of Job is an essential book for our faith. It tells us about the challenge that we need to face if we really want to start a true spiritual journey. This book has a wonderful, unexpected ending, which does not imply understanding, it implies experiencing, it must be lived.
We cannot truly look at our life like this in a merely superficial way as if it were a game, as if our life were a pantomime of little relevance. Our life is enigmatic. We must resolve questions that hurt us, that lacerate us, that put our faith to a harsh test.
What is the answer to this pain? To this night of pain, which we have in the first reading, and the pain in Arturo’s life and all his friends in the tragedy of Los Andes?
In the Gospel we find a surprising story, which has its own dynamic. In the first verses of the first chapter, Mark tells us how Jesus — after the healing of demon-possessed man in the synagogue, as we heard last Sunday — He leaves the Synagogue and goes to Peter’s house, with James and John.
“This woman is not cured because she is strong, coherent, pious, or intelligent, but because God touches her, God takes her hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.”
The Synagogue, until that moment, was the place where it was possible to find God’s word. Now, we see the transition from the Synagogue to a home. This transition is not accidental. This is something that Christianity will bring: a rupture of the sacred area where man can meet God. After Jesus’s Incarnation, we can meet God in our concrete life, in our homes. It is very interesting how the Church, in its first steps, developed in homes; it developed in the life of families. We can see here this transition: Jesus leaves the Synagogue to encounter people in their own realities, in their concrete existences. And what does Jesus find there? He finds the pain, the suffering of Simon’s family.
Simon’s mother-in-law is in bed with a fever. The Lord has come to her. The contact between this suffering woman and Jesus occurs because someone has spoken to him about her. Someone who speaks about her pain. This is the image of a community, a church, a fraternity that is around someone who is suffering, who serves as a bridge between Jesus and this woman. These relatives talk to Jesus about this woman: how important reciprocal prayer is, talking to Jesus about the people who suffer around us. A prayer that comes from the heart produces this miracle.
Jesus approaches, takes her by the hand, and lifts her up. How interesting this encounter between two hands: Jesus’s hands and this, the woman’s hands. This woman’s hand is touched, but it is part of a sick body. The illness of this body is revealed by what happens afterward.
She touches Jesus’s hand, and His hands are God’s, these are his messenger’s hands, the Messiah’s hands, God’s power hands, the Father’s right hand.
This woman is not cured because she is strong, coherent, pious, or intelligent, but because God touches her, God takes her hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.
It’s curious how the text says she waited on them. That hand that was no longer useful, that could not serve because it was sick, now after the encounter with Jesus begins to serve again. This fever is a sign of man’s illness: being unable to love, to serve others because is blocked, immobile in himself. This is the true man’s illness, and to be cured, one should not engage in processes of coherence, efforts, decision — one should touch the power of God.
Jesus lifts her up, and she can serve. When our capacity to serve becomes bogged down, when our love becomes sick, we must be lifted by the Lord. We must be touched by His hand. This action heals us.
Simon’s mother-in-law’s healing is the answer to Job’s crisis, to every man who lives in his pain and finds himself alone. Ultimately, in Job’s life everything is resolved when he meets God. He will emerge from the absurdity of his situation when he would discover that pain is the place where God speaks to him. This is what the woman experiences. The fever was the prelude to his encounter with God’s power.
Then Jesus continues His healing with more sick people from Capernaum and leaves for other locations. That is why Jesus has come, to heal us. And it reaches us now.
“When our capacity to serve becomes bogged down, when our love becomes sick, we must be lifted by the Lord. We must be touched by His hand.”
This is the reality of the Church; each of us is the prelude to God’s encounter with the suffering of others, with the lives of others. We cannot stop at ourselves; each one of us is healed so we can serve and heal others. We are touched to be able to touch others. Our life is a splendid mission. This is the experience of encountering the grace of God; it invites us to a greater mission that goes beyond our lives.
Coming back to the beginning of what Arturo Nogueira experienced in his crisis of faith, in his painful and absurd situation, God made Himself present to him through his friends. He died on November 15, 1972, in the arms of his friend Pedro Algorta. assisted by Gustavo Zerbino. I want to believe that Arturo realized that those arms were Jesus’s, welcoming him to the eternity.
May God give us the chance that our hands will heal so many people, our arms would sustain the weak, until that moment when we die in Jesus’s arms and are welcomed by Him in the eternity.