A doctor offers us thoughts today on a Gospel story of a healing miracle, and the questions it raises. The passage is the Gospel reading for the Monday of the Fourth week of Lent. (John 4. 43-end).
Hannah Merrill who has worshipped at St Chrysostom’s for many years both as a medical student, and now as a doctor working in Manchester Hospitals. Hannah offers these thoughts:
Is there significance in the child being an Official’s Child, and as such part of the occupying force, and this resonating with a “prophet has no honour in his own country”.
The parents are in a desperate situation, what were their thoughts and feelings? It seems that their faith sees the child restored to health, but, would the child have died if the parents did not believe? The passage contains the words “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” and the tone of voice in this phrase is important – is it in exasperation, or a simple statement?
We are told that the man went on his way back home, and Hannah asked what was going on in his mind. Did the father think that all would be well, or was there doubt? Whilst he journeys home he is told that his child lives and then we are told he had belief.
It is a story of doubt and faith, and one which many doctors encounter in their work. There is always the difficulty of believing in the power of God, and also accepting inevitable consequences of illness. There is the issue of helping people come to terms with a difficult diagnosis, and balancing that with the God who in this passage heals and restores.
In closing the conversation Hannah quoted from Ecclesiasticus and asks whether we should pray for miracles or to accept the best treatment and care that we can.
May the One who blessed our ancestors be present to those who provide help for the ill and troubled among us. May they be filled with fortitude and courage, endowed with sympathy and compassion, as they give strength to those at their sude. May they fight against despair, and continue to find within themsdelves the will to reach out to those in need. And in their love of others, may they know the belssing of community, and the blessing of renewed faith. (Rabbi Marcia Plumb)