Imagine if God told us that He would heal one person in our lives, and that we get to choose whom. If we could choose one person to receive the healing of God, who would it be? It could be ourselves. And how would we help them? Free them of some debilitating pain, restore their mental health, give peace from an abusive incident, or encourage them to come back to Confession and Mass? Take ten seconds to think.
Once we’ve chosen, imagine if God then says, “I will give them healing by your praying over them and talking to them about my Son, Jesus,” or, “Now you have to go to the doctor,” or “Now stop nagging them to come to Mass and invite them to Alpha.”
God typically heals people through other people—what we call in theology: secondary causes. When God heals directly, He’s the primary cause. But when He heals through other people, medicine, etc., He’s using secondary causes. In the First Reading, there’s a famous verse: “They even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by” (Acts 5:15). The idea that St. Peter’s shadow might cure people is remarkable, and this example, along with other similar examples in Acts, is used as part of the explanation as to why Catholics use things like holy water, candles, relics, etc. to bless people.
So, God the Father wants to heal us and those we love through secondary causes. Why? Why not just do it directly? Three reasons: 1) It’s to remind us and others that we’re interdependent. You are not God and you need others. 2) It makes us humbler. We all want quick fixes, but many of us resist taking the time to go to a doctor or counsellor, because we’re proud. 3) Healing through secondary causes helps people become like God. He wants people to participate in His healing! There are people in our life who want to help us, but sometimes we stop them. Therefore, I believe that there are certain people the Father wants to heal but won’t… unless we go through other people. Maybe the plan for our healing is that we ask someone for help.
There are three other points we want to keep in mind:
1) Courage: “Many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And the believers were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem” (Acts 5:12-13). Healing requires courage. The Apostles were in public preaching Jesus and not ashamed of being known as His followers. Why? Because He’s risen and on their side! Jesus, give us courage to ask people for help, to offer to help them.
2) The greatest healing is spiritual healing: “Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women” (5:14). When I was a teenager at St. Paul’s, one time we had a layman with the gift of healing come to the parish. Everyone lined up to be prayed over by him, but he insisted the greatest healing is in the line-up for Confession. And even when, at one point during the evening, he announced discreetly that a person had felt some healing, he insisted that an example of the greatest healing came from a little girl who was never healed and cheerfully accepted it as God’s will for her. So, our crosses are meant to lead us closer to Jesus, either by carrying them or by being healed of them.
We have Alpha starting in two and a half weeks, beginning May 11, 2022. There’s no better introduction to faith than Alpha. It starts with a free dinner, a 25-minute video, and then a chance for people to share what they think in small groups. There are people in our lives who can benefit from this, and just need a loving invitation from us.
3) Healing from spiritual oppression: “A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured” (5:16). For most people, the highlight of Alpha is the Holy Spirit weekend, when people are asked if they’d like to be prayed over; someone puts a hand on their shoulder, and asks the Holy Spirit to bless them.
Demons are real and affect people. We’re the ones who can help. I wonder if parents are willing to pray over their children, and if husbands and wives are willing to pray over each other; not just praying for them, but praying over them. Maybe that’s the only way Jesus will heal them, through the hands of someone who loves them. What if the way God wants to heal us is for us to ask others to pray over us? If you want to learn how, talk to anyone on the Alpha Team; they have experience.
Years ago, I was at an event where people were invited to come forward if they wanted to be prayed over. Even though I don’t have much experience in this, I extended my hand and put it on this man’s shoulder, along with a few others. He told me later that he opened his eyes and saw me, and felt some healing from sexual abuse a long time ago. I was very humbled by that, that I played some role in his process of healing.
That’s what it means to cast our shadow on someone—so simple, but necessary. Whom do we have to help with our shadow? To whose shadow do we have to go for healing?