Healing The Crippled Man With Poverty And Faith
by Father Chris Goodwin
It is significant that this man had been crippled from birth. Healing a person who has been injured is no small act. Yet, to give unprecedented strength and size to a man’s limbs is something like creating ex nihilo: it is all the more clearly an act of God, because only God can produce something truly new – as the one seated on the throne says in Revelation 21:5: “Behold, I make all things new.”
The risen Jesus, through his apostle Peter, makes something new: the crippled man grows bone, grows muscle, that he never had before in his life.
The resurrection is a force of new creation. And by the Spirit of God, the force of the resurrection is alive in Peter and in John. And Peter knows this to be a fact. He is confident in the power of Jesus that is invested in him. If Peter had had a gold coin in his pocket, he would have been confident that when he put his hand into his pocket he would have drawn out that coin to hand to the crippled man. He is equally confident that when he puts his faith in the name of Jesus (let’s even say “into” the name of Jesus), he will draw out healing for that man. This is real faith. Faith placed in Jesus produces miracles, just as surely as a hand placed into a purse produces coins. (But purses get empty; miracles are never spent.)
Isn’t it true, however, that when it comes to faith, we often believe, but “hedge our bets”? Yes: I accept that God can do anything, because that’s the logical conclusion based on who God is, according to the catechism. But I’m not at all sure that he will answer my prayer – that he will provide for my needs. And so, I will be sure to spend a lot of extra energy and worry to provide for those same needs that I’m asking God to provide for, just in case he disappoints me.
And what are the results of this sort of “hedged” faith? There are fewer miracles. Fewer mighty deeds. Less amazing displays of God’s power. And, as a consequence, fewer people who come to believe in him.
Was the bold and confident faith of Peter and John something only intended for the first generation of believers? Only something to “kickstart the Church” until we could “go it alone” without God’s power? No.
But perhaps the poverty of Peter and John was also instrumental to the working of miracles. Love impelled them to help the crippled man; that much was clear. And by not having a way to “hedge their bets”—by not having any money to give the man “just in case” Jesus didn’t show up to heal him, their only choice was to trust Jesus. And because of that total trust, Jesus appeared. The man not only stood, he walked; he not only walked, he jumped. And he praised God: he came to believe that Jesus is God.
Poverty just means not “filling our pockets” with insurance against the infidelity of God.
Saints Peter and John, help us to believe in the power of the resurrection – not just with our minds but with our actions. Help us to go out to the service of others with nothing but the name of Jesus with which to bless their lives. By our act of faith, may we allow Jesus to bring faith to others.