John Dominic Crossan (in “The Birth of Christianity” and “The Historical Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography”), along with other biblical scholars, archeologists, and anthropologists, deals with the healing miracles of Jesus by making a distinction between “curing diseases” and “healing illnesses.” You might say it takes a Real Physician, with all the accoutrements of her, or his, trade at her, at his, disposal to “cure diseases.” But, anyone with the right attitude and sense of Presence about her, or him, can “heal illnesses.”
The “illness” is the social and cultural and political and economic impact of the “disease.” The “illness” is what the “disease” means in the life of the person who is “sick.” It is how the “disease” both affects, and effects, her or him. Lift that burden, lighten that load, alter that impact, change the way the “disease” is perceived and carried by the person who is “sick,” and, perhaps, by all those person in her, or his, social circle, and you “heal the illness” which may, or may not, “cure the disease.” Crossan uses the movie “Philadelphia,” where Tom Hanks plays the part of a gay lawyer with AIDS, to illustrate how a person can be healed of an illness without being cured of the disease.
Bring that idea into your life and into mine. Physicians, and the entire medical industry, are swamped these days with sickness and disease. Physicians can’t spend fifteen minutes with one patient before the next one is banging on the door, demanding to come in. Physicians are in a race with time each day to see patients and cure diseases. And, they often prescribe medication for a disease that doesn’t touch the illness.
Crossan (in “The Birth of Christianity,” p. 296) quotes Rodney Stark as saying, “Modern medical experts believe that conscientious nursing without any medications could cut the mortality rate (of epidemics) by two-thirds or even more.” The right kind of company can heal illness and, in some cases, cure diseases. Imagine a physician’s office with a waiting room, and listening rooms, and examination rooms. Imagine listening rooms staffed by volunteers (people like you and me) who are practiced at the art of being the right kind of company. Imagine patients being listened to in caring ways for twenty or thirty minutes before seeing the physician (you wait that long alone in an examination room, currently). Imagine the potential for good in the lives of diseased persons that kind of healing experience could make. Wonder with me why it isn’t happening.
Why isn’t medical science enabling it to happen, and why aren’t we doing everything we can, right now, to hone our skills in the art of being the right kind of company? If caring Presence can heal illnesses, why aren’t we doing everything we can to learn how to be a caring Presence in the lives of others? Why isn’t that the primary focus of the educational program of every church in the world? What could possibly be more important than being the right kind of company? Than being a caring, healing, Presence on the loose and running freely through the world?