“Do come and lay your hands on her and make her better.” “Do not be afraid. Only have faith” (Mk 4: 26-34)
This story has a very special place in my heart. I will never forget it. A few years ago my brother-in-law, John, was seriously ill. After having undergone a comparatively simple operation, something went horribly wrong and he ended up struggling for his life in a coma which lasted twelve long days. At one stage, after six days had passed and there was no improvement, the consultant called the family together to tell them that there was very little hope, and that even if John came through the operation, he blatantly told us he would most probably be left paralysed and end up like a vegetable! They were thinking of taking him off the life-support machine.
We were all there, a very close family, when we heard the devastating news. It sounded hopeless and we were left feeling helpless. We were thrown into a panic – what were we going to do? Would we have the courage to say “Yes,” to the removal of the machine? I was there with the family as we deliberated on what would be the best decision. We prayed and put our faith in God and pleaded with the doctors to give John a few more days, in the hope that he would be cured and be restored to health. The medical staff agreed but still did not give us much hope for a happy outcome.
It was Sunday, and everyone had gone home to their families. My sister, Eileen and I stayed on until nearly midnight, both of us at John’s bedside, and then we decided we would try and get a bit of a rest. On the way, we decided to go to the little chapel to pray for John, and on the way, I happened to say to Eileen “Did you ever hear of Lectio Divina?” and her reply was in the negative. I tried to explain to her the simple method of reading the Scripture but made little headway. When we entered the chapel, I saw some Mass leaflets which had been used that morning. I picked up one, and I got the surprise of my life. Had I gone to the Bible seeking for a suitable text, I could never have found such a special one. It was the very same Gospel that we read for this Sunday. Then, the words leaped out at me.
I handed the leaflet to Eileen and asked her what phrase had meant the most to her. Rather sheepishly, she whispered: “My little daughter is very sick. Come and lay your hands on her.” I then said: “Could you make that prayer more personal and again rather sheepishly she replied, “John is desperately sick. Please come and cure him.”
A certain peace came upon us as we returned to the small room which had been given us for the night and went to bed. We were exhausted, yet at the same time, at peace. We tossed and turned but eventually dozed off. How long we slept, I don’t know, but what I do know is that at seven o’clock, we were awakened by one of the nurses who was shaking us to waken up, shouting “Come quickly!”
We were sure we were going to hear the worst news possible and were bracing ourselves for it. We rushed to the Intensive Care Unit – and I’ll never forget the scene. There was John, who had, for the past thirteen days, lain prostrate and unconscious with tubes and wires coming out of him. There he was sitting up in bed gazing with surprise at us. He turned to Eileen and said: “What are you doing here? And to me he said something similar. We were overcome with relief and joy when we saw him and all we could do was to give thanks to God for sparing John from imminent death.
John went on to recover completely and he was often referred to as ‘The miracle man’. The doctors, never in their wildest imagination could have envisioned such a ‘resurrection’ and I sincerely believe it was all mainly down to prayer and faith in the Lord’s healing grace.
That incident has had a tremendous effect on me, has strengthened me in my faith and trust in a loving God who cares for me and for all of us. May we all take to heart these same words “Do not be afraid, only have trust” and may we go forward in our lives leaving all in the loving care of the hands of God who loves us and has our best interests at heart.
Sr. Padraigín Mc Kenna OP