Hope for Healing
In my homily on March 19th, I mentioned some quotes from Pope Benedict on the centrality of healing in the ministry of Jesus. I include them here for your reference:
Alongside the commission to exorcise, Matthew adds the mission to heal. The Twelve are sent “to heal every disease and every infirmity” (Mt 10: 1). Healing is an essential dimension of the apostolic mission and of Christian faith in general . . . . When understood at a sufficiently deep level, this expresses the entire content of “redemption.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, pp. 175-176).
More on Healing . . . of course!
Last weekend, in light of the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well, I talked about the offer of Jesus to give us “living waters,” which give us the transformative power of the love of God. God’s love is what can really heal us. I know well that some of you (and likely many of you) who heard my homily last week might think that all this “healing stuff” is great for me and others like me, but it’s not really possible (or, frankly, even necessary) for most “regular Catholics.” Some might say, “Fr. Steve, you had a few wounds and God healed you. Great. But I’ve experienced so many wounds, I just can’t believe God can heal all of them. I’m resigned to just endure all this pain (or trying to block it or ignore it) until I die.” Well, even though I understand well why many might believe that, I disagree wholeheartedly. It’s true that each of us has survived by managing the effects of the pain of the wounds of living. We manage to “get along,” and we’re often relieved that “doing so with Jesus” makes things a bit better and less painful. But that's not all that Jesus wants for us. He offers us much more.
“Managing,” even “managing well,” is not “Abundant Life”
If we’re honest, most of us will admit that we’ve figured out ways to believe and to behave that help us navigate the challenges of this life, even if there is often moral and relational wreckage along the way (in our own lives, those of our friends and families, and in the world). And, what is more, most—if not all—of us are not as happy as we’d like, or as free as we wish we were. Still, we get by. Most of us have resigned ourselves to the fact that life just is difficult, painful, and disappointing—even life in Christ! We’ve heard that is should be better, but our experience is often stubbornly opposed to the promises we read in the scriptures. The Bible makes great promises and claims, and we find it difficult to really believe. What are we to make of St. Paul’s statement in Galatians 5:1? “For freedom Christ set us free.” Can it be true? [Yes!] Jesus tells us “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Do we believe that? Can we? Could it possibly be true? [Again, yes!] And in Matthew, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Easy? Really? A “light burden?” [Yes!] If these claims seem like wishful thinking or smoke & mirrors to you or to me, then the Lord longs for us to encounter the living, healing, love of God, the God who is not impotent.
“God may (choose to) heal other people, but not me!”
Some of you might say that you know God is not impotent, but your experience convinces you that God, for some unknown reason, is unwilling—or unable—to heal you. You wonder if, the reason is that you are as unloveable or as unworthy or as unwanted by God as you fear. Never! That's Satan's lies that you've become accustomed to believe. Consider this great text from Luke 4:16-19, which follows Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the desert. Luke begins by stating that Jesus came “in the power of the Spirit” and preached:
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” That’s healing, and that’s what Jesus came to proclaim and to provide.
Most of you who are reading this already "know the truth" about all of this--at least, that is, in your mind. You've been well catechized. But your heart is the place where you can't quite believe (maybe you don't even dare to believe) that you are lovable, or wanted, or worthy of God's healing love. If that's the case for you, that's really, in a strange way, Good News. It's a sure sign that you (and I) need healing. And, because He longs to do so, He came to do so, Jesus can heal you. Believe it!
Two earlier homilies on healing, and one in May might also be of interest to you, in light of these reflections:
February 19, the 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time, when Fr. Steve reflects on his powerful experience of healing on his recent priests' retreat. He shares how God worked in his own heart, and how excited he is to help others experience healing too. The book, Be Healed: A Guide to Encountering the Powerful Love of Jesus in Your Life, by Dr. Bob Schuchts, motivated him to attend the retreat. In a nutshell, the book and Fr. Steve's experience reveal that God can and will heal us, if only we will let Him. Proof, in other words, that the Lord did, in fact heal him, and changed his priesthood.
May 7, the 4th Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday), when Fr. Steve again addresses the Lord's real power to heal and set us free.