When I am in need of healing, it feels like something has taken up residence in me. A virus invades with chills and aches, a bacteria inflames and sears. I am no longer in control but subject to the illness and my body’s battle against it.
Spiritual affliction hits me with the same sense of occupation. Its invaders are scripted conversations, assigning the worst motives to people’s actions, and an inchoate buzzing of my resentments and insecurities. These voices overwhelm my own. They drown out or mangle God calling to me, making God’s requests for help or play or rest sound so distant that I think I can ignore them. My elixirs—scrolling, eating, spending—will numb for a while, but they are no remedies. My soul’s immune system feels annihilated.
In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus heal by rebuking a fever and demons. Often, his rebukes involve silencing—not allowing demons or unclean spirits to speak or commanding a storm to quiet and be still. This is what I desire when I ask for healing. To rebuke the squall of competing grudges in my mind so I can hear God again, and so I can respond. I pray that if God’s rebuke is directed at me, as it was toward Simon Peter —“Get behind me, Satan” (Matt 16:23)—I will have ears to hear it.
Almost always, I find medicine in people who revive my gratitude, whether over a meal, in a liturgy, or simply witnessing their forbearance and vulnerability. It feels like escaping an overcrowded, clamorous room. In the quiet, I am restored, able to hear again and follow.