Prayer, presence, and healing


In today’s reading for Mass, Jesus is said to heal many demons. Mark’s account of Jesus’s healing practice links together three elements: Jesus’s presence to people in need of healing; his time spent in solitude; and his preaching (Mk. 1:29-39). These three elements are not separated but rather intertwined together. That they are intertwined teaches us something important, I think: that solitude, presence, and preaching are all mutually supportive  of one another.

Jesus heals others in a way that is intimate. We often see Jesus touch those who come for healing, even if they are considered unclean (e.g., lepers or the hemorrhaging woman). He speaks to them in ways that shows that he knows them. Jesus is deeply present to each person he encounters. I don’t think we ever see a distracted Jesus, a multi-taking Jesus. We meet in the Gospels a Jesus who is mindfully present to each person with whom he meets.

Where does this mindfulness arise? I think it must come from a kind of interior tranquility that Jesus experienced in spending time in solitude with the Father. Jesus periodically takes time out of his day to be alone in prayer, to find moments where he is not around anyone else except that most interior space whether the divine and the human meet, where the need he had for rest met up with the plenty of the divine that flowed within. We, too, can benefit from spending time in solitude and silence so that when we return to the busy world of ministering to others, or even simply spending time with family and friends, we are fully “present” to them. When we have quenched our own thirst at the Living Fountain, we have plenitude to pour out to others.

Last, Jesus tells the disciples who come to get him that they also must preach the good news of the kingdom. Preaching is central to Jesus’ practice, and not only healing, because people need to hope and meaning as much as they need physical healing. Indeed, we need meaningfulness and hopefulness even more than physical healing alone. Part of how we are present to others is in offering the good news —the good news that they are God’s beloved no matter what their circumstance, in health, wealth, and times of peace, but just as beloved and known in the struggles of poverty, illness, and tumult. Jesus knows this in his humanity because he has experienced it interiorly in that space of silence and prayer.

Jesus’ healing, presence, and preaching are all aspects of his ministering that we bring to others when we are a listening presence, when we offer hope, and when we accompany others in the healing that Jesus offers to all.