Hosea and the psalm remind us – We can trust the Lord. Our Lord is not like the idols of gold and silver made by men, but the true God.
Jesus heals – the demoniac, those with disease and illness, those who are troubled and abandoned. It never ceases to amaze me how Jesus moved through the lives of the common people of Israel over 2,000 years ago going about the business of healing. The Pharisees with their closed hearts and minds never can accept what He is doing, and so look for lame excuses to discredit Him – He violates the Sabbath, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons”; He “blasphemes” when He tells the truth.
For me, one of the lessons from today’s gospel is the steadfastness of Jesus, His commitment to His call. His heart is troubled by the many people He encounters who need healing. We don’t know what Jesus did when he was out of the “public eye” of the gospel telling of His life, but during that time He must have done some preparation for ministry. When we see the mature Jesus of the gospels in public life, He responds to God’s call in His life by acting. Jesus prays, many times, both publicly and privately, and in ways that are most instructive for us. But throughout His ministry, what stands out for me is – He acts, He heals.
One attribute of most Jesuits that I know is their individual and collective ability to articulate a vision and then to act on the vision. Jesuits act. They heal.
My good friend Roc O’Connor, SJ in a recent homily reminded the congregation that we need to have a three-legged stool approach to our spirituality. One leg is public worship, another is private encounters with God, and the third leg is action, service, or in the context of today’s gospel, healing.
In my own life, I engage in public worship and private prayer. But I many times find myself not feeling that I have the time to engage in service. I know that others need my help, but I don’t always put myself in a position to take the action that needs to be done. I make excuses for not doing rather than making time to do. I don’t always act; I don’t always heal. And I am hurting, as we all are. I need - we all need - healing.
There is a wonderful television commercial for an insurance company that is a depiction of how one small self-less action can result in a series of self-less acts that ripple out from the first act, like a pebble tossed into a quiet pond. It is a reminder for me that our actions are magnified beyond our knowing, and that our simple touches of being there for another, building on Jesus’ example for us, can ripple outward and can change, can heal, the lives of others. And in the commercial the loop closes back to the originator of the good acts. That person benefits from the good act of another in the chain.
Where can I act? Who can I heal? We don’t have it in our power to heal as Jesus did, to perform miracles and to make people whole physically. But we do have the power to have a healing effect on those we encounter in our daily lives. And I think this impact starts with little healings, and then becomes magnified as more of us heal each other. If I hold a door and greet someone with a smile, am I not healing in some small way the hurt of being ignored? If I good-naturedly allow a car to merge in front of me in traffic, am I not healing some of the frustration we all sense in living in a congested world? If I treat a cashier or store clerk with respect and dignity, am I not healing some of their pain caused by dealing with rude and insensitive people? And if I do these small things to heal the people I encounter, aren’t I healing myself as I do so?
Isn’t all this just good manners? Well, yes. But in order to see God in each person we encounter, don’t we have to start with seeing them? And how can we see them if we don’t even take the time to engage them in simple pleasantries, in acts of good manners and respect? Larry Gillick, SJ, once reflected that to truly reverence the Eucharist, we must first be able to reverence our own selves and each person we encounter. How can we reverence someone if we aren’t aware of them, if we aren’t present to them in the simple act of opening a door or allowing them safe passage in traffic? How can we reverence ourselves if we don’t heal ourselves?
And so my prayer today is to be aware of all the healing possibilities in my life, and to thus follow the example of Jesus, the true healer of body and soul.
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