“‘Talitha, kum!’... ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’”

Published on 01 Jul 2018
a young woman surrounded by hands

 I hope this will not seem disrespectful, but do you ever wonder what it must have felt like to be Jesus?

- to have the power to heal people just by touching them...

“Do you feel sick?” – I touch you – and immediately you get better. No fuss, no bother, no drugs, no side-effects, no operations, no clinical commissioning groups, no Health & Social Care Bills – you just get better right away. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to be able to do for people?

I often wonder that because, during the week I work as a doctor. And, in my own little way, I try to heal people too. But I’m not as good as Jesus. Quite often when people come to see me, I don’t know straight away what’s wrong with them and I have to send them away for tests that are complicated and painful and not always accurate. And when it comes to trying to make people better, I need to use tablets and medicines and send people to have operations. And my medicines don’t always work. And they can have bad effects as well as good ones. And the surgeons who do the operations have to be “cruel to be kind” - they have to hurt people in order to help them. It’s very hard to cut out the bad part of a person without hurting the rest of the person. But Jesus doesn’t have to do any of that – he just touches people and immediately they get better. Wouldn’t it be great to be like that – to be able to heal people by just touching them?

And the person who made me think that the most, I shall call Tessa. You see, the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life was making Tessa see again.

When I first met her, Tessa was a 14-year old girl who had just come into our remote mission hospital in the Amazon with a very serious and very rare infection of the brain called cavernous sinus thrombosis.

That’s when an infection gets into the blood vessels right inside the brain and it cuts off the blood supply to the eyes. And often people who get it die because it’s a very serious infection. And even if they don’t die, they are seriously and permanently brain damaged.

Well, we managed to stop Tessa from dying. But she was completely blind for about ten days. And we were all afraid that this would be permanent. According to the books we looked up, once this happens, it usually is permanent. But we put her on all the treatment we could think of and hoped for the best. And for once, the best happened. Almost miraculously, she began to recover and every day, when I went to see her on the ward round, she would be able to see just a little better. Until, after about six weeks, her sight was almost completely back to normal. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so proud of myself.

So one day on the big weekly grand ward round, with all the doctors and nurses and students, I asked her how it felt to be able to see again when all of us had thought she was going to be blind for life.

She thought for a little while and then she said she felt a bit sorry.

“Sorry?!! How do you mean ‘Sorry’?!!”

Surprised – and a little disappointed – and rather regretting having asked the question in such a public way - I asked her why?

She said – because she wanted people to go on treating her like they had when she was blind.

She explained – when she was blind, whenever people came to her, they would touch her – just to let her know they were there. And they would touch her with great gentleness and love. That hadn’t happened to her before. And she liked that. And now that she could see again, she didn’t want them to stop doing that.

I learned from that – I hope. I learned that it was not I who had healed her at all. Certainly, I had used my medicines to fight the infection and stop her from dying and even get her sight back. But the people who had healed her were all those people who had come to see her and had touched her with love. And to her, that was more important even than getting back her sight.

So it isn’t just Jesus who can heal people simply by touching them. What I would really like you to remember today is that all of us have the power to heal people – if we touch them the way that Jesus touched them. Let us pray that we may all recognise the power of Jesus’ touch and let us pray that we may all use it well.

Paul O’Reilly SJ