Feb 4, 2012

5th Sunday: Jesus the Divine Physician

"He cured many who were sick. . ."
Job 7: 1-4, 6-7
1 Cor 9: 16-19 22-23
Mk 1: 29-39

“I’m too busy for that right now.”  If that sounds like you’re life, join the club and welcome to my world.  But, as I’ve often said to folks, “It’s a good busy.”  By that I mean that even though our hours and days are filled with duties, responsibilities, places to go to and people to see, at the end of the day if we can say we’ve accomplished good things, then it’s a “good busy.”
There is no doubt that Jesus was not a wall flower, standing silently over in the corner waiting for people to come to him.  He was very busy. His model of earthly ministry was one of active compassion and mercy.  His coming among us was initiated by God himself and motivated solely by love for humanity and a desire that we be saved. For all of us to realize that the divine physician in the person of Christ entered this world in order to bind up the wound of sin and offer us a healing remedy.

In our Gospel passage taken from Mark 1: 29-39, we see Jesus entering the house of Peter and it is apparent that his compassion for the suffering moved him to heal Peter’s mother-in-law. This poor woman was widowed and so was living with Peter’s family according to Jewish custom of the time. She had no other family support so if it wasn’t for Peter, she would have been homeless.
There were no financial safety nets, no social security, no Medicare, no assisted living facilities for such people in ancient times.  In healing this woman, Jesus restored her not only to physical health but to dignity. He healed the body and soul, the whole person.  It is no surprise that as Jesus found some time for solitude the next morning, Simon Peter found him and exclaimed, “Everyone is looking for you.”

Our first reading from the Book of Job 7: 1-4, 6-7 leaves us with a somber mood.  Not exactly the best tone to begin a Sunday morning, perhaps. Poor Job, having lost all his material wealth, ponders the reality he experiences: “Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery ? . . .” We might be tempted to say, “Lighten up Job. You think you have problems? Let me tell you about mine!” 
Yet, Job leads us to wonder why God seems so distant at times.  Job’s expectation of how God would work in the life of a faithful Jew is shattered.  Why would he not be rewarded for his obedience and righteous living? Why has he lost everything? It’s the same question we have when we ask, “Why me God?” In various forms, I think we have all at times wondered why what is seemingly unfair or unjust happens to us or to the innocent. 

Only God himself can answer that question and we cannot manipulate God to act in a certain way in our life. But, we are called to faith and trust and if we truly believe and hold on in times of confusion, doubt, or adversity, then we truly have the kind of faith that Christ calls for.  The Gospel story of Jesus entering Simon Peter’s house and healing his mother-in-law show us how much God is in control. 
Of his own free will and moved by compassion, Jesus desires that we be healed, made well, and hear his Gospel of life and good news. Healing will come to us in other forms, perhaps than physical: emotional, a life of trouble calms down, a faith that is made strong, a peace we find in the midst of hardship.  All such events are moments of healing which welcome the divine physician in our midst. We can stop questioning why God doesn’t act in a certain way and rest in the knowledge of his ongoing care for us. But, such pure faith may take some time to acquire yet we will if we truly ask for it. While it may sound a bit cliché, it is true: “Let go and let God.” His ministry of healing continues in the sacramental life of our Church. 

Our world is so broken by moral confusion these days.  We need a good healer to come and calm us down. While diversity has its value of course, the place of the human person, our role in society, our sense of what it means to be male and female all may seem at times to be up for grabs.  It's the, "Your truth, my truth, but nothing that is THE truth" syndrome.  

How do we live in such a culture as faithful Catholics and Christians?  How can one stay true to what the Gospel calls me in my pursuit of holiness?  What type of Catholic do I want to be - 24/7,  only on Sunday's, only when it is fashionable, or one who recognizes the call to witness to the Gospel?  Sooner or later we all need to ponder such questions.    

We are so blessed as a Catholic/Christian community to have the seven sacraments which are those moments of holy encounter with this healing God. The words, “Eucharist, Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick” should bring to mind in the heart of every Catholic a welcome relief. For in these sacramental encounters we find the healing power of Christ at work who comes to us with his grace a medicine that will heal our souls, and if he so wills, our bodies. But, I think the average Catholic in the pew needs a bit of a boost to comprehend the value of the treasure we have in these sacraments. 
Ask any priest and they will tell you how powerful are the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick.  In Reconciliation we come as penitents with our lives wounded by acts of unfaithfulness and sin. Christ speaks in that sacramental encounter. How human it is as priest, who acts in the person of Christ, welcomes a penitent.  But no priest is without sin himself.  I share that truth in my own life. But healing happens in that encounter through the grace of forgiveness and we, like Peter’s mother-in-law, are restored to a place of dignity.

In the Anointing of the Sick, I have more than once to be sure, seen people’s health improved. That anointing with blessed oil and the words spoken by the priest as one is anointed on the forehead and hands: “May the Lord who frees you from sin, save you and raise you up.”
In the Eucharist, we all respond as the Body of the living Christ is raised before us: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

In all three of these powerful encounters with the Holy Spirit and the living Christ, we seek healing in body, mind, soul and spirit. These rituals are not just empty ceremony or meaningless words.  Within them the Church believes the ministry of Jesus as healer and reconciler is carried on.  Why would he not continue to be there for us?
Jesus was likely invited by Simon Peter to his home.  This is a time for us to invite the divine physician to make a house call for your life.  Ask for these things the next time you celebrate the Eucharist with your brothers and sisters in the faith.