Only say the word, and I shall be healed. That’s what the book says. Common Worship, and I think it’s in the Missal too. It’s an adaptation of Matthew 8:8 –
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.
The centurion’s servant was sick, going into his house would have made Jesus unclean by Jewish rules. The centurion wants his servant to be healed, and doesn’t want to put anything in Jesus’ way that might prevent that healing. Jesus commends the centurion for his faith, and tells him his servant is healed. We never hear what the servant thought of it all.
Healing is a tricky subject. We tend to think of it in terms of fixing something that is wrong. That “wrongness” might be physical, mental or spiritual. But I’m not sure that calling something wrong or bad helps. I have lived my life with a bad ankle and a good ankle. That’s what I called them when I was very very small, and it’s how I still speak of them now. But I am very fond of my ‘bad’ ankle. Yes, it causes me pain. Yes, it doesn’t work as well as it might. But when people offer to pray over me for healing for it, I refuse. Why? Why don’t I want the ‘bad’ to become ‘good’?
It’s a bit more complex than that. We are shaped by our experience. My ‘bad’ foot is part of me, part of my identity. Through it, I have been given a capacity to cope with hospital waiting rooms, misunderstandings, pain, even discrimination. I have an element of empathy for those who have long term conditions to endure. And I have been given a very real understanding and insight into the power of prayer. Because I don’t need my bad ankle to be made good. I need the ability to live my life with it, and to cope with it. I need to be able to deal with the pain when necessary. If I can do those things, I don’t need any more. There is already enough healing to satisfy me. I don’t feel I have to ask for more.
It’s the feeling that is important. If I feel I am sufficiently healed already, why should other humans judge that I am not? I might be in far more need of healing in other, less visible parts of my life – people don’t rush to lay hands on me on days when I feel I am an awful mother, or a dreadful friend, or academically stupid – and yet those are the things which sear me far more than a bit of physical pain. So rejecting offers to lay hands on me isn’t about lack of faith. It’s about people not knowing what I need.
The centurion knew exactly what his servant needed, and Jesus agreed.
Only say the word, and I shall be healed.