HEALING AS SALVATION: A SERMON ON WEDNESDAY, 4TH WEEK OF LENT
Have you ever been asked if you are saved? What does it mean to be saved. We can understand salvation by studying the meaning of several words. We always sing ‘Salve Regina’, which means ‘Hail Holy Queen’. That word ‘Salve’ is related to the word ‘Salvation’. It is also the same thing as the word ‘Ave’, which was used by the Engel to salute Mary, which we translate as ‘Hail’. This kind of greeting is how you wish someone good health. It is both a greeting and a blessing. It is like saying ‘May you be healthy’. But it is not just talking about physical health. It is talking about health in every aspect of life. That is how we get a word like ‘Hale’, where a person says ‘I am hale and hearty’, and this simply means that I am healthy in every possible way. The best way to understand the word ‘Hale’ is to think of the word ‘Whole’, which means ‘Everything’. That is why sometimes we talk of healing as being made whole. So, if we link this to salvation, then to be saved is to be in a state where one is healthy in every possible way. Why this analysis is important is because, sometimes we think God is not interested in certain aspects of our lives. We tend to think that Jesus is only interested in our spiritual lives. No, if it is a concern to you, it is a concern to Him. One way to understand this is to think of our children. If your child is playing with a toy and your child invites you to see the toy, you cannot consider that irrelevant, because even though it is not important to you, it is important to that child. Here we can think of 4 important areas of our life where we need to be healthy.
1. PHYSICAL HEALTH: GIVE US THIS DAY, OUR DAILY BREAD
Thus says the Lord: “In a time of favour I have answered you, in a day of salvation I have helped you; I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages; saying to the prisoners, ‘Come forth’, to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’ They shall feed along the ways, on all bare heights shall be their pasture; they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them. And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be raised up. Behold, these shall come from afar, and behold, these from the north and from the west, and these from the land of Syene.” Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his afflicted. But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, my Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a woman forget her suckling child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?” Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.: Our daily bread is a very important concern of God. Our physical health is very important to Him. Some people suffer because they think they are physically ugly, and they even blame God for their physical appearance. Some are worried about a sickness or condition they were born with. Some are worried about a sickness or condition they developed with time. Some are worried about getting old and no longer being as physically strong as they used to be, or as healthy as they used to be. Some are worried because they have no money to take care of their physical needs. Some are worried because their life involves a lot of physical work and there is no other way to survive. Some are praying for the fruit of the womb. In all these and many ways, we are sick physically. Later we will see how the words ‘comfort’ and ‘compassion’ will help us to understand how God brings healing to us and makes us whole. Whenever someone is physically sick, the church visits the sick person and anoints that person with oil. This sacrament is important to bring physical as well as spiritual healing to the sick person. It is also important to listen to doctors and those who know about health, and not develop habits that endanger our physical health.
2. SIN AS SICKNESS: AND FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES
The Lord is kind and full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in mercy. How good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures: Considering our sins, if not for the mercy of God, we would all perish. He is slow to anger and rich in mercy. Sin is a very big sickness, perhaps the worse sickness we face. We all struggle with sin and it becomes worse when it becomes a case of addiction. Som are addicted to alcohol, to sex, to food, to pornography, to gambling, to telling lies (pathological lying), to drugs, to work (workaholics), to sleep, to the mirror, to the television, etc. Some of us are obsessed with one thing or another. It becomes important to know that we cannot help ourselves, but God can heal us of these sicknesses and make us whole again. Here the Church gives us the sacrament of reconciliation as medicine for this sickness. In some cases, professional help is also required.
3. EMOTIONAL SICKNESS: AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US
The Lord is faithful in all his words, and holy in all his deeds. The Lord supports all who fall, and raises all who are bowed down: Many people are bowed down because of injuries caused by other people. Some people feel they are always blamed and misunderstood when things go wrong. Some people feel dislike from others for one reason or another. Some feel like others are always prefered to them. They are treated as if they are not good enough, and even their attempt at trying to be good enough is also not good enough. Some are ignored and not given attention. Some are persecuted. Some are betrayed. Some are victims of other people’s malice. Some have suffered all kinds of abuses, from their parent, family members, teachers, sometimes priests and sisters, from their spouses; abuses of different kinds and degrees. God is the mender of broken hearts. But it is difficult to mend an unforgiving heart. This is why forgiving those who have hurt us is very important in dealing with these issues. Forgiveness does not negate the fact that it is important to confront the issue and sometimes, people need to face the consequences of their crimes. But this should not take the form of vengeance, because vengiance always returns on the head of the vengeful. Justice should not be confused with vengiance. We should never be malicious, even towards those who have hurt us. The worse sins are the ones committed with malice. It is important for our healing and well-being to forgive.
4. EVIL AS SICKNESS: LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL
Anybody who has ever tried to be close to God knows that at a point you feel like saying to the devil ‘Get off my back!’ It is as if the devil follows us everywhere. He tempts us to do evil. He diverts our attention to unimportant things so that we can forget about important things. Even when we think we have conquered him by doing good, he tempts us to do those good things for the wrong reason. Why can’t he just leave us alone? It is because he knows the life that God has prepared for us and he is so envious of us he does not want us to have it. He presents to us all kinds of evils in our lives. He manipulates many of us from outside, and in some rare cases, he even possesses some. But we are not without the help of God. The remedy to this is found in the gospel of today: At that time: Jesus answered the Jews, “My Father is working still, and I am working.” This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God. Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing, and greater works than these will he show him, that you may marvel. For as the father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgement to the Son, that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him. Truly, Truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgement. “I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgement is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”: Jesus is God, yet He speaks of obedience to the Father all the time. He says He only does what He sees the Father doing. A daily renunciation of satan and all his empty promises; a daily conversation and a daily resolution to do the will of God is sure remedy for temptation and evil.
COMFORT AND COMPASSION
We can experience healing in two important ways. One is a direct healing when the sickness is cured. This can happen in an ordinary way, which is usually a gradual recovery, with or without medical or professional intervention. The extraordinary way is when there is a drastic turn around in the situation, which cannot be medically or scientifically explained. We can experience healing in this way.
But there is another kind of healing which is more subtle, and this is spiritual healing. In this case, the condition will remain the same, but God gives comfort and compassion. Comfort can be understood when we think of the word ‘fortify’, which means to make strong. Bringing comfort to the sick person is to make the sick person strong to bear the sickness. In this case, the sickness is still there but the person just bears it happily, and people will be wondering how someone can go through such pain and still be alive. That is because that person has been comforted. Added to this comfort is compassion. Compassion comes from ‘cum’, which is ‘with’, and ‘passion’, which is ‘suffering’, just as we talk about the ‘passion’ of Christ. Compassion means that God is suffering with the person. In your sickness, God is with you, and He is not just with you, He is bearing the sickness with you. He is bearing whatever suffering you are going through with you. This way of comfort and compassion is also a kind of healing, because even though the condition remains the same, the ability to live with it is bestowed by the constant presence of God.
MOMENTS OF HEALING
We can experience healing at any time in our lives and in any place. But there are places and moments when healing can especially take place. However, there is nothing magical about any of them. It is God our loving father intervening in the situations of His beloved children.
The Holy Mass/ The Holy Eucharist
Anointing of the sick
Blessings and prayers of consecration
Intercessions of engels and saints/ use or relics
The crucifix and holy images
Holy water and Incense
Praying with the scriptures
Bringing healing to others