In chapters nine and ten of Part 1 of The Lord, Guardini looks at how Jesus interacts with the sick, the poor, and the powerful. What’s interesting is that it seems easy for us to paint Jesus the historical man as some kind of social revolutionary, who champions the poor and downtrodden over the rich and powerful. Or even as a miraculous doctor, who eagerly seeks out the sick with mercy and healing because he pities them. Guardini doesn’t see either of these figures in Jesus.
“We know of no word from him that reveals himself as an utopian. He never even suggests that pain will be banished from the world. Still less does he exalt himself above it in transports of pity or enthusiasm. With customary realism he looks it straight in the eye; he never loses courage, never grows tired or disappointed. The sympathetic, all-comprehending heart of Jesus Christ is stronger than pain.”
-Romano Guardini ("The Lord")
Jesus heals those who approach him in faith. The lame man who was lowered through the roof of the house, the blind man who shouted from amidst the crowd, even the woman who pushed and clawed her way through the crowds only to touch his cloak was healed without Jesus even needing to consciously heal her. Jesus didn’t seek these people out. He didn’t travel around with a “Nazarene Miracle Cures” horse-drawn carriage. He was not a doctor (or in the case of that example, a charlatan selling snake oil). But because these people approached him in faith, he provided healing to them. Never does he say they will never be sick again, nor does he promise that he will heal every person and every malady. But for those with faith, he provides healing without hesitation or question.
This gets even more interesting when we look at how Jesus treated the poor and the rich. Jesus does tell us that the poor are more disposed to faith and to welcoming the Kingdom of God than the rich are (Matthew 19:24). Which makes sense, as the call Jesus has for the rich entails realizing that they are not as virtuous and worthy as the world says they are, while his call for the poor entails understanding that the poor have the same rights as any man does. It stands to reason that the rich and powerful would be at least hesitant, if not hostile, to that call. But we cannot be so lazy as to think this means Jesus is calling for some kind of social revolution. The social revolutionary is concerned with reducing inequity, or even eliminating it entirely.
“[Jesus] is interested only in the individual soul whom he places before God. He possesses the godly power that springs from divine freedom, power to stir all manner of men: the poor and lost simply by accepting them as human beings and bringing them the tidings of God’s mercy; the great and admired by making them realize that they dangerously overrate themselves and risk losing their salvation.”
-Romano Guardini ("The Lord")
But what’s perhaps most interesting, and indeed most concerning for each one of us, is the people Jesus surrounds himself with. He dined with Zacchaeus the publican, he allowed the harlot to wash his feet, he defends and forgives the adulteress whom the Pharisees wish to stone. Even St. Matthew was a publican, the most despised and oppressive class of people in Palestine at the time. Jesus surrounds himself with sinners.
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.” (Mark 2:17)
Be very careful before you count yourself among the righteous, because if you do you will not find yourself in the company of Jesus. Jesus came to call sinners, to get them to admit their fault and repent. Notice how he so closely relates sickness and sin. He is a healer not just for physical maladies, but also the greatest disease of all: sin. If you wish to walk with Jesus, it takes realizing your own infirmity, and approaching him in faith.
Every day of Lent, I am writing a reflection piece on two chapters of "The Lord" by Romano Guardini. If you'd like to read or follow along, you can find the full calendar of where we're at below, or Click Here for the main landing page.