Only say the word…

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.


8 responses to “Only say the word…

  1. Interesting post with all kinds of food for thought.
    Purely as a point of information, the new English translation of the RC Mass, the only one valid here since Advent 2011, renders this “only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

  2. Amen and amen! God is using how I am now to do something different with my life – that and the strength to live within my restrictions are healing. People, stop trying to bludgeon me into the shape you think I should be. Who defines what “wholeness” is? I think that’s God’s call.
    Thanks Claire

  3. Great post, Claire. Plus I think both your ankles are stunningly lovely, my dear – and I wouldn’t change a thing about either! πŸ™‚

  4. Yes! I have an auto-immune condition, and have felt “in the wrong” for not praying for healing. Maybe I am wrong and should be “pressing on in prayer”but that doesn’t feel right to me. However what I have received is the assurance from God that I never have to face anything, anything, ever, by myself. That does me very very well.

  5. Beautifully put Claire. I think we learn to live with our imperfections, physical or mental or emotional, and if we accept that God will not heal the problem, but our attitude to it then that is healing enough.
    Many people believe that we are never given more than we can cope with, and though it doesn’t always feel to be so, my own experience is that God does indeed provide the extra strength.

  6. Thanks all for comments. Pam, I think your image of being “bludgeoned” into the right shape is quite revolting and highly accurate in how it feels when it happens.
    Kirsten, I had my first experience of this when I was at Theological College and certainly felt incredibly guilty – until I realised I felt angry too. Knowing that God is there is far and away more important!
    Ray, I’m going to think some more about our attitudes – and whether God works by healing those. I’ve sometimes felt I have more than I can cope with – hindsight is a wonderful gift πŸ™‚

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