In yesterday’s Gospel reading (Mark 1:40-45), Jesus heals a leper, but then warns him “sternly” to not tell anybody what happened. This happens many times in the Gospels, and I’ve always been mystified by it; if I were the leper, I would probably go right ahead and tell everyone, too. Why wouldn’t Jesus want us to witness to his mercy and his healing power? My priest, Fr. K., finally cleared this up for me, and it suddenly answered a lot of other questions I had. According to Fr. K., Jesus didn’t want the news of his healing miracles spread around because he didn’t want people thinking that physical healing was his main purpose. He came to save us from Hell; any other miracles that he performed were really extras.
I often struggle with the fact that God is able to save us from all our sufferings, to answer all our prayers for healing, but he doesn’t. He only heals sometimes. Then I noticed that in the Gospels, even when Jesus was walking around and directly healing people, he still didn’t heal everyone; as far as we know, he didn’t fill up his 33 years with healing everyone he could reach. Instead, he healed some, and he preached to more; but he came to save everybody.
In the Jewish Passover ceremony, we recite a litany with the refrain “dayenu–it would have been enough for us, it would have sufficed us.” Had the Lord saved Israel from slavery, but not opened the Red Sea for them, it would have been enough. Had he led them through the Red Sea, but not given them manna in the desert, it would have been enough. Had he given them manna, but not allowed them to reach the Promised Land, it would have been enough. In the same way, had Jesus redeemed us by his death, but not saved us from earthly suffering, it would have been enough.
For me, this is the only answer to the question of why God allows suffering; but it’s not the end of the story. In the Gospels, Jesus is often “moved with pity” (Mark 8:2) to go above and beyond his original mission. He wants us to remember that God does not owe us anything, and that the enormous gift of Heaven is more than “enough for us;” but he loves to do extra things for us, too. So go ahead and pray for whatever you want! But if God doesn’t respond, remember that what he has already given us what we need.
Sometime this week I’d like to follow up on this theme, as a remedy for existential crises. Stay tuned!