Heal us, O God
At my school, we do a weekly mid-day prayer service with preaching, planned and preached by the faculty. I was on for yesterday's prayer. It was a good reading for me to consider at this moment.... hope you find some good in it!
Gospel Reading: Luke 4:38-44
After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon.
Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever,
and they interceded with him about her.
He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her.
She got up immediately and waited on them.
At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him.
He laid his hands on each of them and cured them.
And demons also came out from many, shouting, “You are the Son of God.”
But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak
because they knew that he was the Christ.
At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place.
The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him,
they tried to prevent him from leaving them.
But he said to them, “To the other towns also
I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God,
because for this purpose I have been sent.”
And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
You’ve got to feel for Jesus here—doing great things to help the people, only to be prevented from keeping his contemplative space in the desert with his Father. So many hurt and suffering people want his touch that the comfort and refreshment of solitary prayer is taken from him. Anyone who is deeply invested in their ministry feels this pull to meet the needs of everyone who comes, and like Jesus, we have to say “let me go” and help others, too.
Jesus starts healing with a “friend of a friend” – Simon’s mother-in-law. Her reaction to being healed is to go back to the ordinary: to get up and be the hostess to the guests in her home, a role she surely knew well. As soon as word of Jesus’ powerful touch begins to spread, it seems that the whole world comes to be healed. I can place myself in that crowd, hoping to touch just the tassel of his cloak, and be instantly healed in body and spirit. “Lord, only say the word and I shall be healed.” Please, Lord, heal my soul, heal my body, heal my mind, my relationships. Find all the places in me that keep me from doing the ordinary things that you have called me to do, and heal them. Make me whole.
We bring with us not only our own need for healing, but the needs of our loved ones, hoping they, too, will be touched and healed by Jesus. No one wants to see the ones they love suffer, but that is, of course, inevitable in our world. We will see death, sorrow, pain, and suffering. We live in an imperfect world among people who have free will, and sorrow simply comes with the territory.
Yet, sorrow and suffering, even the climactic suffering of Christ on the cross, are not the end of our story. In action and word, Jesus shows us the deeper meaning of his healing gift. His act of healing preaches the Kingdom of God as definitively as any of his words. Jesus declares for us a new world, a new kingdom in which the Good prevails. A new kingdom in which no one needs to be healed and all live in harmony. While each one of us seeks personal healing of body and spirit, Jesus seeks an even greater healing of which each individual is only a small portion, a prefiguration. The message Jesus offers is one of hope and healing for the wounds of our world, of war, of overpopulation, of exploitation of the people and of the land.
This hope-filled message may seem far away, as we hear of atrocious acts of violence in Syria, both violence already committed and violence that seems imminent. But despite the discouraging news of these last days, hope remains part of our identity as Christians. The Holy Father has asked us all to mobilize the “hope that is within us” by praying this Saturday with him and people all around the world. Pope Francis states that “Jesus doesn’t need an army to cast out the demons, He has no need of pride, no need of force, of arrogance. What is there about His word? For with authority and power He commands unclean spirits, and they come out. This is a humble word, meek, with so much love; it is a word that accompanies us in the moments of the Cross.” As Christians following Christ’s example, may we use our words, our prayers, and our fasting to work for peace and healing in our broken world. Perhaps today the kingdom of God will be prefigured in the use of touch and word to end violence, rather than the use of more violence.