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Pascal Lushuli OFM

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Today, in Africa, more than elsewhere, people are suffering, facing a variety of diseases and illnesses of all sorts. HIV/AIDS, malaria, depression, spirits aggression, family ties and many other ailments are some of the common and daily sufferings of the Africans today. When looking at these desperate sick people, and read the many biblical healing and exorcism stories spread throughout the New Testament and almost at each page of each gospel, one wonders whether these stories could be without meaning and relevance for us today.
A few weeks ago, I attended a Sunday liturgy. The word of the day was about Jesus healing the blind Bartimaeus (Mk10:46-52). After the homily by the priest, the faithful responded with the traditional “I believe” during which one man started reacting and exhibiting signs of what most Africans would doubtlessly see as manifestation of evil spirits. It was simply said that the person should be taken out as the congregation continued singing their “I believe”. Unfortunately, that was the only care the gathered Church offered to that sick person. Only God knows where the man was later taken for healing by his relatives. This incident called to my mind the NT incident of Jesus teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath day when a man with evil spirits showed the same signs and shouted “Have you come to destroy us, you the Holy One of God”. At that very time, Jesus healed the man. (Mk1:21-27). While people were amazed at such “a new teaching with authority” in this Marcan incident, people in our Sunday incident were disappointed at such a teaching without authority.  To some of us, it was shocking to see how people could remain blind at the power of the very Word that was being preached and believed in.
Our purpose in this dissertation is then to investigate critically the NT reports on healings and exorcisms, and to see which meaning and which message they might have had for the first century Palestinians and what significance they might have for Africans invaded by all sort of illness today.
However, healings and exorcisms are themselves a problem today, not only in concepts but also in practice. Then one might ask what is healing? What is exorcism? What precisely does the NT say about healings and exorcisms? Which role did they play in the ministry of Jesus and of the disciples? Did they have anything to do with the gospel message? How are healings and exorcisms seen today? Are they still present in the Church today and in which way? Given the many various forms of illness in Africa today, in what way can the NT healings and exorcisms be relevant for Africans today? These are basic questions that will guide our investigations throughout.
Four chapters make up the present dissertation in its attempt to answers the above questions. The first chapter deals with basic perspectives, trying to define the relevant concepts to healings and exorcisms. It describes also the problems related to HIV/AIDS as well as the problem of illness and evil spirits in Africa and the battle for wellbeing. The second chapter takes up the task of studying and analyzing the NT data on healings and exorcisms, puts them in the context of the mission of Jesus and the preaching of the disciples, and then it presents their meaning. The third chapter looks at how healings and exorcisms are apprehended in modern society and how they are carried out in the Church today. Chapter four attempts to suggest a Christian healing and exorcism ministry relevant for Africa today.

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