Sunday, July 1, 2018

healed forever

May my words be in the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

I recently fell into conversation with a man when I was out and about – I won't say what part of the country I was for the sake of preserving his anonymity. As is common with such chats – which is one of the reasons why I think they do not happen by accident – it wasn't long before he was telling me his tale of woe. And by any standards he had had a hard time of it over the last number of years when it came to his health. He has suffered from a variety of various fairly serious problems for the last number of years, affecting not only his quality of life but also his mobility and therefore his independence. And, to add suffering to suffering, he has only recently been diagnosed with cancer; and in his already weakened state his prospects, quite frankly are not good. This gentleman was a good many years younger than I am; and the chances he will make it to my age seem slim.

'A lot of prayers have been said for me,' he told me. 'And I've said a lot myself. But they don't seem to have done any good.'

What he means by this, of course, is that he has not been healed from the diseases that afflict him. And his disappointment is understandable. We know that God can heal our bodies of all that ails them. We read of it in the Bible all the time. There is an account of one such miraculous healing in our Gospel reading today – the woman who had been afflicted with a flow of blood for twelve long years … causing her much suffering, huge expense as she went fruitlessly from one doctor to another, and enormous social stigma – for a woman in such a condition was considered ritually unclean, which meant that she could neither take part in public worship, not could anyone lay hands on her lest they be considered unclean themselves and be similarly ostracised. All she has to do is to touch the hem of Jesus' garment and she is at once healed. And we also read today of Jairus' daughter. She is dead when Jesus arrives at her house; whatever the unknown illness it was that she was suffering from has already killed her. But this is no obstacle to our Lord. He restores her to life and to the bosom of her family.

And I do not think it unreasonable for those who think their prayers to be unanswered to ask – why them and not me? Why were they healed while my suffering continues? It cannot be because God loves the people of that time more than those of today – our Father in heaven loves all his children equally. And indeed, the Apostle St Paul assures us in his letter to the Romans that God shows partiality to none. It can not be that we in our day are greater sinners than those who walked the earth with our Lord. The New Testament is replete with proof that sin is a fixture of the human condition. And yet Jesus healed them anyway – even healing the ear of the slave of the high priest when he was arresting him to take him to his death when it was cut off by St Peter. 

And it can not be that people's faith was greater then than now. And even if it were, we read in the gospels of our Lord healing those who, on the face of it at least, did not seem very strong in the faith. We may think here of the ten lepers who were healed of a disease which made them ritually unclean restored both to their society and their families – of whom only one returned to thank Jesus and give glory to God … and he was a Samaritan, of a race considered by the Jews as being enemies and almost worse than the heathens.

No, to understand why it is they were healed in such numbers then and why miraculous healings are so few today we have to remember why it was that Jesus performed those miracles in the first place. Compassion for the suffering of those who stood before him naturally played a part; for Christ was not only fully God but fully and man. But that was not the primary reason – for human suffering is part of the fallen world in which we live and that suffering has its purpose, even though we may find it hard to understand or sometimes even to accept. 

No, the primary reason for those miraculous healings, as it was with the other miracles he performed, was to give witness to who he was, and to demonstrate that he was who he said he was – the Son of God who had come into the world for our salvation, to save us from our sins so that all might have life and have it abundantly – eternal life in heaven. He performed miracles so that the people of his day – and the people of every age that followed right down to the present age – might believe in him and be saved. He healed the bodies of a few then that the souls of all in his day and all the days that followed might be healed of the deadly disease that they suffered from – the fatal affliction of sin – and by that healing live forever in heaven.

I told the man that I met that day that his prayers had not gone unheard. For there is more than one kind of healing. The first was the healing of the body that he longed for. But there is also healing of the soul, a spiritual healing that helps bring us back into a right relationship with God. Physical healing brings relief of present suffering, but it is of its nature always temporary, for in the end death comes to us all in one form or another. But spiritual healing has the potential to be eternal, for it is the kind of healing that at the end of our lives will bring us to be with God in heaven – the very reason for which Christ came into the world.

As I end, I pray, of course, for the good bodily health of all here. But I pray also for the good health of the soul. For that, I think, is far more important … that is the health that when your life on this earth ends will bring you to live forever with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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