"He listened to Paul speaking, who looked intently at him, saw that he had the faith to be healed, and called out in a loud voice, "Stand up straight on your feet." He jumped up and began to walk about." (Today’s selection from Acts)
My experience of healing has not been that dramatic, but I have seen how love can heal. I remember Johnny (not his real name). At one point in my teaching career, I was in charge of three reading labs and one math lab where we individualized the instruction for each student at our school. I felt very responsible for these labs. The school, along with a $10,000 grant had spent thousands more to set them up. Every teacher was daily taking their class into one or two of these labs. The Principal had made a big investment in these labs and commissioned me to make them work.
I was walking down the hall one afternoon when I heard what sounded like a riot, coming from room 201, the first lab we had set up. I rushed into the lab determined to find out what the problem was and to resolve it. There was Johnny, fighting with two other students. Now Johnny was a big, fat kid who didn’t pay much attention to his appearance and truthfully was not liked by many, if any, of his classmates. What made it worse, Johnny had a younger brother, Petey who was cute, mild mannered and liked by most of his classmates. I could see that I had to straighten Johnny out once and for all. Before I could do that though, I had to reestablish some order. I told Johnny to go across the hall to an empty classroom and wait for me. I then proceeded in my professional teacher manner to reestablish order and get everyone back on task. I was good at that. What I wasn’t so good at is what came next. I proceeded across the hallway and into the classroom where I faced Johnny sitting there waiting for me. I was all ready to lay into him when he burst out crying: "Nobody likes me, I’m fat and I’m ugly." I was speechless. I started to cry. Everything he said was right. I put my arms around Johnny and held him for a moment and then said: "Let’s go back and start over."
Johnny did fine and I was healed.
The word "love" is used seven times by Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. I’m thinking there might be some connection between this "love" Jesus talks about and the healing each of us along with Paul are able to effect in our worlds today.
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.