Friday, November 03, 2006

The Greatest Healing

+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.

In today’s gospel lesson (Luke 8:41-56), we witnessed two great miracles performed by Christ: the healing of the woman with the issue of blood and the raising of the daughter of Jairus from the dead. These miracles demonstrate our Lord’s absolute power and authority over death and disease, but they show us something else as well. They reveal that God is indeed merciful and the lover of mankind, and not just in a broad, collective sense. God loves each person, and is merciful toward all, with the hope that we will each respond in kind and learn to love God in return, so that we might find healing and life everlasting.

Does God bring miraculous healing to each of us, or is that only for a few? I guess we would have to say that depends on what sort of healing we are speaking of. Sickness, disease, and death are certainly a part of the human experience in this fallen world. Sometimes God intervenes to prevent, reverse, or remit these conditions in people’s lives; sometimes He does not. Human beings have pondered this enigma for thousands of years, trying to probe the mystery of God’s will to find a pattern or a reason behind this apparent inconsistency. Mature Christians have learned to simply accept that God’s will is a mystery and His choices cannot be predicted, though His love and mercy for each of us endures forever and can always be counted on.

But there is another kind of healing which God wills to bring to every person, which in the end is far greater than a cure for cancer or even a raising from the dead. I am speaking of course of the healing of our souls, the illumination of our hearts and the enlightening of our minds. By this we can be brought into the full communion of love with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and can live eternally with the One God in perfect spiritual harmony and health.

This healing is much more difficult to obtain than even physical healing. When we are physically sick, we earnestly desire healing, complete healing, and as quickly as possible, do we not? But when it comes to our spiritual sickness—that inner disease of soul that keeps us in a darkened state and at enmity with God—we are often less urgent and diligent in the pursuit of our healing. The simple reason for this is that we don’t particularly have room in our hearts for the love of God. There is too much other stuff in there that we tend to love more.

God has given us His Son Who united with our fallen race and raised us up again. He has granted us the forgiveness of our sins and broken down the wall of enmity between Himself and us. But we in a sense keep rebuilding that wall and keep trying to maintain a barricade between ourselves and God. That barricade is made of the many things that we love in place of God. It is constructed, not of stones or blocks, but of various idols such as the love of money or possessions or comfort, or our favorite lusts and worldly desires, or laziness, or guilt, or the fear of change. God would very much like these obstacles to be swept away that we might experience His love in fullness. But as often as He might knock them down, we stack them right back up again and hide behind them. It seems that in our present spiritual state we are not quite ready to experience the love of God, and would rather insulate ourselves from it.

This is the basic human spiritual condition that needs healing. It is much like the impulse that drove Adam and Eve to hide from God and try to avoid His presence in the Garden after their fall. Don’t we find ourselves doing much the same thing every day? How often do we hide from God and try to avoid Him?

Why did Adam and Eve hide from God, and why do we do it? In their case, they were aware that they had committed an action that damaged their communion with God, with creation, and even with one another. Like the spiritual children that they were, they sought to hide from their loving heavenly Father to avoid the consequences of their action, though the damage was already done. God gave them the opportunity to own up to their sin, even asking them, “What have you done?” But Adam blamed it on Eve, Eve blamed it on the Serpent, and the pattern of avoidance rather than repentance began for mankind.

We don’t much like to look inside ourselves to find the sins and idolatries that lurk there, and we less enjoy engaging in the work of repentance to eliminate them. Thus we often carry a daily sense of guilt and prefer to live externally and keep active doing “things” that keep us just a little bit removed from God, rather than subject ourselves to those quiet moments of reflection that may actually lead to a change in heart and to the conviction that we need to change. The Psalmist David speaks quite graphically of our inner condition when he says, “There is no soundness in my flesh because of my sin. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled, I am greatly bowed down; I go mourning all the day long.” What an apt description of our spiritual sickness and the guilt and separation from the joyful experience of God’s love that it causes.

When I was on Mt. Athos last year, I experienced a few moments of what the fathers call “divine consolation”. Standing there in the darkened monastery church and praying, my heart was suddenly filled with unspeakable warmth and I felt overwhelmed by the love of God for sinners. It seemed as if momentarily the church grew a bit brighter and clearer and even the icons were smiling at me as they radiated with the love of God that fills the saints. I very nearly wept as I realized that even I, a stupid man entangled by so many sins, was loved by God. Soon that feeling passed, but was replaced by a sense that now that I had been reminded of the prize, it was time to get back to the work of repentance. I felt like a soldier in the midst of a battle to defend his homeland. Bone-tired and bloodied, he thinks suddenly of his wife and children back home and is reminded of what he is fighting for. Then he finds renewed strength and courage to engage the enemy again and be victorious at any cost.

My brethren, how important it is for you to know that God loves you. He is aware that you do not yet love Him, as there are so many other things that you love more. But know that God loves you, and that He will do whatever He can to help you tear down that barricade of your own making so that you might experience His love. God’s love is not conditional; it is only blocked by the barriers that we erect or the false loves that we treasure in our hearts. These are what our repentance must address in order that we may be healed…our souls cleansed, our hearts opened and our minds set aright. This is the healing that God desires for each of us that we may know His love and take courage in the struggle that characterizes life in this present world. God loves you and desires you to spend eternity in love with Him. May He help us all to see the joy and beauty of this and enable us to pursue it with all our hearts.

+To the glory of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


At 11/04/2006 8:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seek and ye shall find....

Jesus's words are the gasoline in my tank.

Know Jesus, know peace.


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