The Pool of Bethesda (with the five porticoes) where Jesus healed a man who had been infirm for 38 years. It is interesting that the Romans built their own temple right next to it that was for their god of healing, Aesculapius.
I believe very strongly in the power of prayer. When anyone asks me to pray for them, or for a loved one, I immediately tell them that I will. So often these prayers are for some kind of healing to take place. Since my own real conversion to the Lord in 1972, I have seen so many of these prayers answered; but I have also seen so many that seem to be unanswered. It often appears to be quite a confusing process. If we pray for someone, and they are healed, it is fantastic. If we pray for someone and they are not healed, it seems so sad. A big question to ask is, do we give someone false hope in saying that they may receive a healing? Another question is what do they think of God who sometimes seems to heal people and sometimes seems to ignore them? The Church tells us that God wants us to pray to Him for help in every situation. Scriptures are full of examples of miraculous healings at the hands of Jesus and at the hands of the Apostles and other members of the early Church. Throughout the ages we have had so many accounts of Saints who have brought healings to people. It seems that every place where there has been a Marian Apparition, healings abound. There is no doubt that miraculous healings do occur, but certainly not apparently in every case.
In my own life I have seen miraculous healing occur in me, as a result of prayer. Around 1980, I went for an annual checkup. This was done in a clinic where they did all of the body fluid tests, and X-rays and then sent a report to my personal physician. A few days after the tests, my physician called me and told me he wanted to see me in his office as soon as possible. I went in and he told me that the chest X-ray that they took showed a mass growing between my heart and my lung. He also told me that since this report came from a clinic where a lot of people were treated at the same time, a mistake could have been made. He had me go for a new chest X-ray. The new X-ray confirmed that there was a sizeable mass growing between my heart and my lung. My doctor then referred me to a thoracic surgeon. By now I was quite concerned and I asked my local parish charismatic prayer group to pray for me. They all gathered around me and laid hands upon me and prayed for a healing. I went to the thoracic surgeon and he did another X-ray, this time in his own office. He examined the X-ray and confirmed again the mass being there and said he wanted to schedule me for surgery. I asked him if it was cancerous and he told me that he really wouldn’t know until a biopsy was done on the removed mass. I was scheduled for surgery about two weeks away. I again went to the weekly Charismatic prayer meeting and again they laid hands on me and prayed over me. A few days before the surgery was scheduled, the surgeon sent me to an X-ray facility for what they called a triangulation X-ray. He said he needed this to determine the exact depth and location of the mass so he could operate properly. This was before MRI’s. After that X-ray was taken, he called me back to his office and told me that somehow the mass had totally disappeared. He was dumbfounded as to why, but I told him that I had been prayed over for a healing. He said that was the only explanation he could offer. He scheduled me for follow up X-rays (I figured that all these X-rays would cause cancer, but I had to do it) and none of the follow ups, to this very day, have shown the mass re-appearing. I felt very strongly that it was the Lord who had healed me because of the prayers I went through. God is so good. I have had other healings in my life too, but this was the most dramatic, and best documented.
I have also witnessed many miraculous healings of others. In 1982, I was attending a Priest’s and Deacon’s Conference at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Although this was open only to Priests and Deacons and Seminarians, on Thursday evening they had a Healing Mass and opened it to the general public. Several priests, known for healing ministries, were there and concelebrated the mass. Fr. Ralph DiOrio was one of those priests and he came down walking among the people sprinkling them with Holy Water while prayers for healing were being said. I was sitting in a row with several priests and deacons and some laypeople. One nearby man, who came in with sunglasses and a red tipped walking cane, was helped to his seat by his wife. It was obvious that he was totally blind. When the Holy Water landed upon him, he let out a large cry and immediately took off his glasses and started looking around. He kept exclaiming, “I can see, I can see”. He and his wife were overjoyed and their eyes were filled with tears of joy. Throughout the rest of the evening the man kept looking all around in wonder. I especially remember him looking through his wife’s pocketbook and looking at various items and pictures. I am not sure if he had ever seen during his lifetime. He acted as if this was the first time he had vision. It was a very wonderful evening with many healings being attested to.
Another time my wife and I were on a retreat at Mount Saint Augustine in Staten Island. Fr. Francis MacNutt was leading the weekend. He was known for the many healings that occurred when he prayed with people. There was a young woman in her early twenties that was there who had difficulty in walking. She had one normal shoe and one shoe that had about a six inch lift on it. She shared that she had been in a bad auto accident and that her leg bone was so damaged that they had to remove six inches from it. She also suffered from some hip injuries. She walked on her own with the lift shoe, but not very well. Fr. MacNutt prayed over her and as hard as it is to believe, her leg started extending. By the time the prayers were over, she had to remove the lift and her regular shoe and walk around barefoot. She not only walked, she ran around leaping and jumping for joy. I remember that for the rest of the weekend she had to go around barefoot because her legs were now the same length. At the end of the weekend, her mom came to pick her up and the minute she saw her daughter leaping and running around in bare feet, she completely broke down in pure joy. If I hadn’t been there to see the whole thing, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. But it HAPPENED! God is good.
I have worked on many healing prayer teams over the last 40 plus years and I have seen many other healings. I have visited Marian Shrines and have seen healings and the evidence of healings. I have been at other conventions and retreats and seen healings. I know, without any doubt, that they do exist. BUT, I have also prayed with many people who have not been healed. I find it so difficult to understand why. Shortly after the healing of the woman with the shortened leg, I came home and went to pray with the teenage son of a member of our prayer group. This young boy had advanced bone cancer. I felt for sure that if we kept praying over him, he would be healed. Unfortunately, he never was, and he died at seventeen. I kept asking the big WHY? I don’t pretend to have the answer to that. Why does healing occur in some people, and not in others? I really dislike it when people say that it is because they do not have enough faith. In my experience, this is not true. Many people with very strong faith have not been healed. We can only answer the question by stating the obvious….we cannot understand the plans of God. We can only trust in Him. We also limit ourselves to what we experience. Our experience is the limited life span that we as humans normally have. However, our God has given us the gift of unlimited life for all of eternity. A child, who dies young, even though we see it as very tragic, is going to live forever. Our own lifespan now, whether it is only a few hours or over one hundred years, is miniscule compared to all of eternity. That person who is “taken away” from us will be reunited with us for all eternity. That is what the Good News is all about. We have LIFE now, so we can LIVE forever.
So where does that leave us when we need healing or when we are asked to pray for healing? First of all, we should depend upon the medical profession to help us. God has given many gifts to the doctors and nurses and others who care for us. Secondly, when there is serious illness, we should go to our local priest and ask to be given the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. In addition to these we should pray and ask others to pray for us. One of the people that we should ask to pray for us is the Blessed Virgin Mary. She loves her children so very much and wants the best for them. Her prayers for us are so powerful. We should also realize that when we don’t see an apparent miracle, God, through our prayers, has been at work in the situation. Sometimes the healing is more on the spiritual side then on the physical side. Our prayers work, but not always the way we think that they should.
I believe that we are always called to be filled with the HOPE of a MIRACLE and always continue on in praying for those who need it. We should pray for the fullness of life and pray for the best of life. But, we should also know that God has a plan that is much better than we can imagine. We need to be able to say, “Jesus, I trust in you”. His plan for us is for all of us to live together with Him forever and forever and forever. God is good!