And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” – Mark 5:34 NKJV
Faith? What is faith? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term “faith” is a noun that has several definitions which follow:
- allegiance to duty or a person: loyalty; b. fidelity to one’s promises, sincerity or intentions;
- belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion;
- firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) complete trust;
- something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially a system of religious beliefs
Now, what is faith healing? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, faith healing is a method of treating diseases by prayer and exercise of faith in God. Today, due to the awful living conditions in the Philippines, many of the sick in our poverty-stricken country would wish for miracles for the sought-after extensions of their broken and unhealthy lives. Not everyone can afford a heart transplant, dialysis, and rehab. Even government hospitals are now semi-private. There is limited free health care in our land, thus the sudden deaths of some of our citizens. No one knew he had a heart disease, not even the diseased. So most result to folk healers, but most Catholics in our land turn to God…and to those who are gifted by God to be faith healers.
It’s so amazing how the faith of so many people can cause the slightest of commotions, then amazing miracles. Saturday, January 18, 2014, at 9am at our little parish church of Nuestra Señora De La Paz Y Buen Viaje, the famous Fr. Fernando Suarez held a healing mass. Our parish priest was supposed to postpone the mass probably due to the fear of having a crowd too large for our parish grounds, but the healing priest Father Suarez refused to postpone it (well, it may be because of a tight schedule. After all, he’s pretty in demand). So many of our parishioners flocked to our teeny tiny church at the corner of Tandang Sora Avenue and Capitol Hills Drive, hoping to get healed from all their ailments, whether physical, spiritual, emotion, psychological, and many more.
In the registration station, representatives of our dear parish would ask us what our ailments are, and then they’d write them down on a piece of sticker paper and ask us to stick them on our shirts. I had too many to ask healing for, so I just decided to write down the obvious ailment that needs healing: my knee dislocation. Then I saw my mother (who left for the mass earlier than me because she’s in crowd control), and she gave me the sticker paper she had for me. It had most of what I needed healing for: physical, psychological, emotional. I asked her to add my hypertension and my knee dislocation, and then she added trauma and bad memories too. I was kind of embarrassed because I was asking for too much…but I know that the Lord will hear me. Since the church was small, I sat outside the door. Good thing I brought with me a folding chair. And so I sat there during the first part of the mass. At first, I really couldn’t concentrate on the mass because I saw all of the other people’s sticker papers. Stroke, high blood (a.k.a. hypertension…my dear countrymen and countrywomen refer hypertension to high blood), goiter, cysts, diabetes, cancer, coughs and colds, and many more ailments are what I saw. I even saw some pieces of sticker paper with simply “good health” on it. So I found my way in the church building, but I didn’t want to go in at first. I had a feeling that maybe some people would get mad because I was able to come in, but they can’t. See, Filipinos are really loud when it comes to wanting to be physically “close” to God. But anyway, I got in.
It was during Father Suarez’s homily when I got in the church. He was stressing on our behavior when inside the church, and how we should live our lives. He mentioned that it’s so sad how Filipinos can’t stop and give one full hour to God every Sunday; he’d see some people taking phone calls or simply chatting during the mass. Then he emphasized that the mass is the one that heals the person and not simply his touch (though his touch is really God’s touch). Next, he gave a point to our lives before and after asking for healing. He said that if we ask for healing, we have to change ourselves. He shared a story about a man who went to a healing mass of Father Suarez because he needed a heart transplant. He heard the homily, and the priest’s message is to change ourselves. The moment the man arrived home, he asked forgiveness from his wife, and he lived a life filled with Christ. The man never had to undergo the heart transplant anymore after his metanoia. Father Suarez pointed out that asking for healing without doing something to make it possible is pointless. He is asking us to change our ways and be more like Christ, the divine healer. As the homily ended, I was awoken by his words. I did need to change a lot in me. If I wanted to be healed, I should believe that I will be healed. I must think about the good things, I must forgive, I must surrender, I must serve, and I must change.
As the mass went on, my eyes couldn’t help but wander. I mean, I was focused in the mass, but my eyes weren’t. It’s as if they were so into the people with me inside and outside the church – those people seeking total healing. Most of the people were driven by their faith to go to that mass. Some seemed to be desperate for healing, as some would really make their way inside the church, wanting to get touched first. I didn’t understand how some wanted to be touched first, but I did understand why they wanted to be touched – their faith may be the only thing they have left to hold on to. I thought, “so that’s why many Filipinos are devotees of the Black Nazarene, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and other images of Mother Mary, St. Jude, St. Pio, and all the saints. They believe that their faith, with the help of the prayers of the holy ones in heaven, will save them and heal them.” On that moment, a big admiration in the Filipino faith was instilled within me.
The mass ended, and the healing rite began. The healing rite goes like this: Father Suarez will touch you. You may feel like falling or not. Either way is okay because we all have different cases and different paces. Some received instant healing, like this man who had difficulty walking before getting touched by the healing priest. After falling, he stood up and walked fast towards the podium to give a testimony. I was lifted up while listening to some testimonies, but I cannot help my tears. I held them back during the whole mass, and I didn’t really know why I felt like crying. After some time of reflection and waiting, it was my turn. I continued to pray until I felt Father Suarez touch me twice. I felt something push me back, but I don’t know if I stopped my self from falling, or I wasn’t meant to fall. Well, I did have some fear because of my knee. I didn’t fall, and I still had pain in my knee. I thought “maybe not today…or maybe not in this are of concern”. I was thinking that my slight hesitation of falling might have meant a hesitation from surrendering to God. Still, I cried. I felt relieved. Wiping my eyes, I went out and bought a rosary bracelet to support Father Suarez’s ministry.
Afterward, I went inside again and I saw my mom fall. After she stood up, she went to me and hugged me so tight. Her companions in the Apostleship of Prayer noticed us and went near us. Actually, I met a lot of them throughout the mass, and they kept on expressing how beautiful I am. They continued to say words of praise and encouragement towards me…and then I realized that God made a way to make my self-esteem shoot up again. It wasn’t the physical pain that was starting to get healed…it was my broken spirit that was starting to lighten up again. The healing rite was almost over for the ushers were the ones getting touched already. As my mom and I made our way closer to Father Suarez, I saw the woman who gave the “constructive criticism” I had during parish involvement in third year. I was so hurt when she spoke to me then, but now I forgave her, and it felt so good while sharing words of faith and encouragement to each other. I felt that God is really working on my broken spirit then, and I felt limitless. As Father Suarez sprinkled holy water on us, I feel like I was cleansed. I was soaked in holy water, drowning with so many blessings. Then someone gave out water bottles filled with water that was said to be blessed by the healing priest. As a kid, my mom would always put holy water or oil on my chest whenever I had a tough time breathing, and I felt better. I was given a bottle by my mom. I wanted to give it to someone else who wanted it, but no one seemed to have interest in it. I thought that the water was meant for me. Though I know it’s not miracle water, I know that the water will cleanse me. As we headed out, my aunt asked for my rosary bracelet. She said she’ll try to ask Father Suarez, who was already in his car, to bless my rosary. Luckily, he was able to bless my rosary. Mom ran to him to have her new rosaries be blessed, and was happily walking back to me after a minute. As we met with Father Joel, our parish priest, he was smiling at my mom, saying “I claim your healing, tita (auntie). Cloie and Kyle are healed, too.” (Disclaimer: we are not related. In Filipino culture, we call others using terms that pertain to family members, like ‘ate’ (older sister), ‘kuya’ (older brother)’ and others). He saw me and he smiled so wide. I smiled at him, too. I was feeling so infinitely happy…like I’ve never been so happy before.
And so we left our little church and headed to a nearby mall to have our prayer cards laminated. We were tuned in to a Catholic AM radio station, and a renowned broadcast journalist was sharing her experience with her faith during her coverage of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s beatification. She shared about what her colleague said about the procession during the feast of the Black Nazarene in Manila. He said that he finally understood why people hold on to their faith so much. He saw that it was as if that the people’s faith in God is the only thing that they have left. In this third world country, that is most likely possible. What’s really amazing is that the Filipino spirit is similar to the Filipino faith in God. We had to turn off the radio already since we arrived at the mall, but I wanted to listen more. But any way, I know I’ll be able to hear more testimonies.
Many people hold on to their faith so much, and it’s really amazing. But most of them forget to do their part in their partnership with God. We Filipinos do have a saying: Na sa Diyos ang awa, na sa tao ang gawa (translated to: With God is blessing, with man is action). Some tend to forget the latter part of the saying. Even I am guilty of this. But today, I am inspired to serve others in my own special way, just like Father Suarez. God gave him a special gift…he even once touched a dead person, and she came back to life. I, too, want to give life to others in honor of serving the Giver of life.
Today, I claim my healing in Jesus’ mighty name. Tomorrow, I will give life in Jesus’ mighty name.
You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me. – Psalm 85:5-7