Sunday, 1 July 2012

Jesus' Healing Ministry

Address given at Templederry & St Mary's, Nenagh on Sunday 1st July 2012, the 4th after Trinity.

Have you heard this one? - Sermons are like biscuits – they need shortening!
These words jumped out of the page at me, as I was sitting idly in a waiting room the other day, scanning the jokes page of an old copy of the Tipp Tattler. It seemed to be meant just for me – a message from on high! I wish I could preach a sermon like a wicked, buttery shortbread biscuit, but I fear it’s beyond my capability.

Three things strike me particularly as I read today’s NT reading (Mark 5:21-43).
First, notice how hectic Jesus’s healing ministry is.
·        Jesus has just returned from healing a mad-man on the other side of the lake, to find a crowd clamouring to see him. Jairus, a leader of the synagogue, begs him to come to heal his desperately ill daughter. Jesus immediately responds as he always does to people in need. But on the way, pressing through the crowd, he suddenly senses another person in need, a woman with a haemorrhage has touched his cloak. He turns aside with healing words for her too. When he finally reaches Jairus’s house, he heals the girl who everyone else believes is already dead.
·        Jesus is always on the go, he never stops. How tired he must be with all the crowds and all their demands – but he keeps at it, because he knows it is God’s work he is doing.
Second, notice how sensitive Jesus is to the needs of all he meets.
  • He recognises Jairus’s agitation and goes with him straight away to see the girl – there are no waiting lists for Jesus, unlike our own health service.
  • Despite the crowd pressing around him, Jesus senses the touch of the woman with a haemorrhage, and pauses to talk to her directly.
  • When people come to tell Jairus his daughter is dead, Jesus reassures him. When he reaches the house, after sending away those in hysterics, he lovingly takes the girls hand, and gently says, ‘Little girl, get up!’ And he even makes sure that she gets something to eat when she comes to and can walk about.
Third, notice how important faith is to Jesus’s healing.
  • “Daughter, your faith has made you well”, he says to the woman with a haemorrhage, “go in peace, and be healed of your disease”.
  • “Do not fear, only believe”, he says to Jairus.
  • Wise doctors, I think, have always appreciated that the faith and belief of patients in the treatment they receive is important for recovery. A consultant proposed injections of colloidal gold to treat my father’s rheumatoid arthritis. He replied, ‘I believe in gold injections about as much as I do in rhino horn’, and sought a second opinion. The gold I am quite sure would have done him no good, because he did not believe it would. But his faith in the second consultant’s treatment gave him several more years of good health.
  • Mark also tells us, in the very next passage of his Gospel, that Jesus’s healing powers were almost completely ineffective in Nazareth. People who knew his family, people he had grown up with, just could not bring themselves to believe in his message of good news.

Mark records these healing miracles to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
But for me the real miracle is that Jesus continues his healing ministry even today, both in us and through us.

There are times when each and every one of us desperately needs healing. And Jesus, who told his disciples ‘Remember, I am with you always’, offers us his healing touch whenever we need it.

Jesus is never too busy to respond to us. With his great sensitivity he understands our needs beyond what we ask, and he will heal us in whatever way is best for us. If it is physical healing we seek, we may not always receive it – healing miracles are rare enough these days - but he will surely give us the spiritual healing we really need.

The only thing he needs from us is the faith and boldness to ask him in prayer.

But as well as healing us, Jesus also heals through us. Jesus calls us as Christians, corporate members of Christ’s body, his Church, to continue his ministry in his name.

St Teresa of Avila puts it beautifully, Christ has no body now but ours. No hands, no feet on earth but ours. Ours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world. Christ has no body now on earth but ours.’

Today’s reading has something to teach us as we do our poor human best to live up to Jesus’s call. First, we must expect our lives to be hectic – there is so much that needs to be done. Second, in order to minister successfully to others we must cultivate in ourselves a Christ-like sensitivity to their needs. And third, our ministry will do little good unless we also foster faith in the good news Jesus preached, not just in those we meet on the way, but in ourselves.

I shall finish with St Ignatius Loyola’s beautiful prayer for Jesus to strengthen us in his service:
Teach us, Good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve:
to give, and not to count the cost;
to fight, and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will;
through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen

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