Sunday, February 08, 2015

Healing the Broken

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Picture: cc Phil & Pam Gradwell

Sisters and brothers, are you interested in healing? I think many of us are. If I were to organise a talk, for example. Or a seminar. Or a Mass to celebrate a special occasion. What do you think I could do to get more people to come? From experience, one good way is simply to publicise the Mass as a healing Mass. Or to say that the talk or seminar is about healing of some kind. Healing of memories, maybe. Or inner healing… If I were to do that, then many more people will show up. Everyone is interested in healing. Perhaps it’s because we know that we are all sick in some way. We all need to be healed. Not just in body, but also in mind, and in spirit.

And yet, sometimes I can’t help wondering whether we really know what it means to be healed. And what it means to be sick. Haven’t we met people who are sick, but who do not know it? And, on the other hand, don’t we also know of people who think they are physically ill, when they’re actually perfectly fine? What does it really mean to be sick? And what does it mean to be well? What does a truly healthy person look and feel like?

Sisters and brothers, these are some of the important questions that our Mass readings help us to answer today. In the gospel, we’re told that Jesus cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another. He healed them. But in what way were they sick? And in what way did Jesus heal them? Sisters and brothers, when a car stops running the way it’s supposed to, we say that it is broken-down. It needs to be repaired. In the same way, a human body can also break down. Isn’t this what happens to Simon's mother-in-law?

The gospel tells us that she had gone to bed with fever. Her body was broken-down. She couldn’t function as usual. She had to rest. Then we’re told that Jesus took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her. But that’s not all. We’re also told that, after the fever left her, the mother-in-law immediately began to wait on them. She started serving the people around her. Isn’t this the difference between a healthy person and sick one? Not just the absence of fever. But the presence of the ability and willingness to serve others. A working car can run on the road. A broken-down one cannot. Similarly, a healthy person is one who serves. A sick person does not.

But there is more. A human being is more than a car. It can break down not just physically. But also spiritually. So, in the gospel, we’re told that Jesus cast out many devils. He didn’t just heal broken bodies. He mended broken hearts. Broken spirits. But what does it mean to be possessed by a devil? What does it look and feel like to have a broken spirit? The first reading gives us a good example. A helpful illustration.

We are probably all familiar with the story of Job. We know he was a good and righteous person. And yet, God allowed terrible tragedy to befall him. In a very short time, he lost his property, his family, and even his health as well. So that, when we meet him in the first reading, we find him terribly depressed. Possessed, as it were, by a spirit of sadness and despair. His heart is broken. He is unable to find meaning in life. Unable to be happy. Unable to serve others with a joyful heart. For him, life is nothing more than slavery. We are forced to work. For no other reason than to earn money. And we are constantly restless. Never really happy with our current situation. At night, we look forward to sunrise. In the day, we long for evening. Even if we go through the motions of serving others, we find no joy in doing so. Job’s example reminds us that sickness is not just about diseased bodies. It is also about broken spirits. Which prevent us from finding meaning in life. From experiencing joy in service.

In contrast, consider what we find in the second reading. Notice how St. Paul describes his ministry of preaching the gospel. Even though he says that he didn’t choose this work for himself. Even though he calls it a duty and a responsibility that has been placed upon him. Even though he says that he has made himself the slave of everyone. Yet Paul is filled not with a spirit of depression, but of enthusiasm. He speaks of his work as a reward. A sharing in the blessings of the gospel. He is happy to do it. He finds deep meaning in it. It gives him great joy. Isn’t this the difference between the healthy and the sick? Not just the ability to serve others. But also the capacity to find meaning in it. To derive joy from it. Even to be energised by it.

But, if all this is true, then how do we come to be healed in this way? Especially if, like Job, we ourselves have experienced disaster and disappointment. Failure and disillusionment. When people have let us down. Even betrayed us. Or when we ourselves have fallen short of expectation. Or when we find it difficult to find meaning in life. When our faith feels like nothing more than a burdensome struggle. How to mend our broken spirits? How to recover our enthusiasm? How to find healing?

What we need to do is, of course, to turn to Jesus. In the gospel, when Simon and the other disciples went looking for Jesus, they were doing so for the wrong reasons. Impressed by the large number of people flocking to see the Lord, they wanted to convince him to remain where he was. To build up his popularity even more. But that was precisely the wrong reason to stay. The wrong reason to serve. By thinking in this way, the disciples were only setting themselves up for failure and disappointment. They were already showing symptoms of illness. And they did not even know it.

How does Jesus respond? Let us go elsewhere, he tells them, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came. Just when he was beginning to become popular, Jesus decides to leave. And he leaves because that is what he was sent to do. Not to build his own reputation. But to proclaim the Kingdom of God. That is the mission entrusted to him by his Father. And it is by sharing this same mission with his disciples that Jesus begins to heal them of their illness. By driving out their worldly ambitions. So that they might be possessed only by the Spirit of God. The Spirit of Love and Joy. The Spirit of Peace and Patience. The Spirit of Gentleness and Self-Control. The Spirit that empowers and energises us to lay down our lives for others. As Jesus laid down his life for us.

Isn’t this what true healing looks like? Isn’t this is what it means to be a healthy human being?

Sisters and brothers, today the Lord wishes to continue to heal us. You and me. Today, he wishes to continue mending our broken spirits, by sharing his mission with us. How willing are we to receive it? What response shall we make to the Lord today?

1 comment:

  1. O Lord,

    I come to You as I am - broken, vulnerable and so much in need of Your healing.

    I bring my weaknesses and my areas of growth to You...

    Melt me and mould me, Lord - let me adopt Your ways - to be loving, compassionate, forgiving and docile to the Spirit of God, dwelling within me.

    Heal me, O Lord and make me whole again.

    Come Lord Jesus.

    Sih Ying
    9 February 2015