How miracle healings are Jesus’ call to faith

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Raising of Jairus' Daughter
The raising of Jairus' daughter. Paolo Veronese, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

I would like to take a step back from the scriptural text to show this connection between the call to the Gospel and Christ’s miracles. Coincidentally, while thinking about the significance of Mark 5:21-34, I was also reading “A Voyage to Lourdes” (Harper & Brothers) by Alexis Carrel. Perhaps the story of Alexis Carrel’s experience at Lourdes could give us fresh eyes for seeing the relationship between Mark 1:15 and Mark 5:21-43 — to see the true significance of these miracles.

Christ’s activity in the Gospel of Mark, including his miraculous healings, vividly illustrates the call to faith — to, that is, “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15). Our Gospel reading this Sunday, Mark 5:21-43, presents two of Christ’s miracles: the healing of Jairus’ daughter and the healing of the woman with the hemorrhage. Both miracles are awesome accounts of Christ’s healing power, though, even more than this, they reiterate Christ’s call to repent and believe in a visible way.

June 30 – Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wis 1:13-15: 2:23-24

Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13

2 Cor 8:7, 9, 13-15

Mk 5:21-43

Who is Alexis Carrel? Carrel won the Nobel Prize in 1912 for his work on vascular sutures, pioneering today’s life-saving surgeries, including organ transplants. Raised Catholic, Carrel was agnostic about God and did not believe in miracles by the time he entered the university. Put differently: Carrel refused the Gospel’s call to faith.

In 1902, Carrel was asked to accompany a train full of sick pilgrims to Lourdes. He went, hoping to scientifically examine and explain the incredible cures reported there.

Suffering from abdominal tuberculosis and near death, Marie Bailly had been smuggled onto this same train by her friends. Marie had spent most of her life in hospitals: She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had.

Carrel cared for Marie and carefully observed her, on the train and at Lourdes. At Lourdes, Marie was carried to the baths, water was poured over her swollen abdomen, and, then, to Carrel’s great amazement, Marie was fully cured over just 30 minutes. Marie herself told him that “when the water was poured on her abdomen the third time, it gave her a very pleasant sensation,” according to an article by Father Stanley L. Jaki from Catholic Culture, “Two Lourdes Miracles and a Nobel Laureate: What Really Happened?” She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction. Marie returned home and joined the Vincentians, caring for the poor and the sick the rest of her life. She answered Christ’s call and lived the Gospel with great faith!

Now, while Marie’s miracle was interesting to Carrel scientifically, witnessing Marie’s cure did not bring him to faith. Carrel only returned to his faith 40 years later. And here is something quite interesting: Carrel described this moment as a sudden sensation of “something strange running through him,” the article said.

How interesting that this moment sounds like a stream of water! Like Marie’s “very pleasant sensation!”

Indeed, another scientist, Servant of God Dr. Takashi Nagai, who was also healed by Lourdes water at the point of death, described the experience: “Like a flow of water from a turbine, I felt the water of Lourdes flowing through my dying body …” (Nagai, “Thoughts from Nyokodō”).

Christ the Healer

Friends, perhaps in seeing these coincidences, we can also more truly recognize Christ as the one who heals. And that his healing is more profound and integral than any mere physical healing. In fact, this most interior type of healing is presented in the Gospels by Christ’s physical healings, such as those in Mark 5:21-43. We see and understand through these miracles that faith in Christ opens us to true healing: through Christ and in the most interior part of our being we are placed in communion with God, the very Giver of Life.

To be healed, we must repent and believe: fall down before Jesus and tell him the whole truth. And he will say to us: “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction” (Mk 5:34).

Catherine Cavadini

Catherine Cavadini, Ph.D., is the assistant chair of the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Theology and director of its master’s program in theology.