Sunday, February 08, 2015

Jesus heals (Sunday homily)

What do we make of the healings Jesus performs?

There are so many episodes in the Gospels, 
showing our Lord healing someone, and even raising the dead. 
What do we make of that?

First: do we believe it? 

A lot of folks just dismiss the Gospels as “just stories.” 
But here’s the thing: Matthew and Mark’s Gospels 
were probably written about 30-35 years 
after the events they describe; and Matthew’s Gospel, at least, 
was shared immediately around the area where the things took place.

So here’s a thought-experiment. 
Suppose someone wrote a book about events that happened in Ohio, 
in the year 1980 – that’s 35 years ago. 

And suppose that book claimed thousands and thousands of people 
in Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus, Sidney, 
and lots of small towns in between, 
had all been healed of various diseases; 
some were raised from the dead, including children. 
And most of it happened out in public, with huge crowds.

Now, of course, lots of us know 
none of those things happened back in 1980. 
We were here; we would have seen it. 

My point is that the Gospel writers 
would have faced the exact same scrutiny – and also mockery – 
if their stories were just made up.

What’s more, if they’d simply left the miracles out, 
there’s still all that Jesus taught. 
Embellishing that teaching with made-up miracle stories 
is kind of foolish, isn’t it?

It occurred to me that the miracles in the Gospels 
force us to decide, don’t they? 
If they were just books of wise sayings, 
we could add them to our shelf, and check it from time to time. 

But when you have these accounts of healings, multiplied food, 
demons cast out, and people rising from the dead, 
there’s no middle ground;
we either have to embrace the Gospels, or else toss them aside. 
The miracles force us to decide: do we believe?

Then there’s a follow-up question: 
If Jesus did it then, does he do it today?

I believe he does. There are many accounts of miracles – 
and I mean careful accounts, things that are examined closely. 

When the Church is trying to determine if someone is a saint, 
one of the tests is to see if anyone has received a miracle 
in response to asking that saint to pray for him or her. 
When a miracle is verified – in fact, two miracles – 
then someone can be acclaimed as a saint. 
And all this information is published.

Many of these miracles are indeed healings. 
A woman in Costa Rica was cured of a fatal brain aneurysm 
through the intercession of Pope John Paul II. 
A man at death’s door with tuberculosis, which is a lung disease, 
was healed through the intercession of Saint Bernadette. 

In fact, there are many other sorts of miracles
That the Lord continues to perform in our midst.

I read a story yesterday about a woman 
who lived 13 years on nothing but the Eucharist. 
No other food, and no water. 

There is the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in Mexico City. 
It is on a cloth that should have dissolved long ago; 
yet the image is still on display almost 500 years later. 

And, of course, we have a sacrament that is about healing. 
I mean, of course, the sacrament of anointing. 
Many people think of this simply as Last Rites. 
But in fact, the anointing can be received 
any time we are facing a dangerous health situation. 

Do people get healed? Certainly they do. Is it miraculous? 
There are too many stories that can’t be explained any other way;
But we have to admit, in other cases, 
the person might have gotten well anyway.  

Now we come to a really hard question.
What about those who pray and pray for healing;
They are anointed, they try everything – and yet they aren’t healed.

That is to say, their bodies aren’t healed. 
There is another healing that this sacrament gives, 
and that is spiritual healing. 
That’s because Jesus Christ himself is present in that anointing, 
just as he was in Simon Peter’s home.

I have seen many people who experience great peace, 
tremendous courage, and a kind of reorientation to their lives. 
And that healing often radiates out, 
and into the lives of those gathered around – 
which is one reason why I always encourage people 
who are going to be anointed
to have their family come as well. 

After all, what is “healing,” really? It’s being made whole. 
When Jesus comes into our lives, 
when we know he’s present in the troubles we face, 
that is healing. 

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