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13th Sunday OT Healing

 

I think we got off to a nice start in this past week’s bible study. For your convenience it was offered on both Wednesday morning and Thursday evening . I dropped in near the end of the first session to say hello and listen to any comments and I kinda got the sense that the class may have been a bit on the technical side. That is, it was an explanation of how the Church understands the bible in light of modern bible scholarship which means, the Historical Critical Method. Critical not as being negative, but as in “critical thinking” which means looking deeply at the passage– or the story– in the light of all the information from the various disciplines. Language, archaeology, anthropology, history, you name it. They will use anything in their search for the truth.

But this, for better or for worse, has had an influence on us. And much of it is presented right there at the beginning of our Catechism in the section on Divine Revelation. How God has revealed himself to us through the sacred writers.

And I agree, it can be a bit technical, and it can be a bit troubling to hear that some of the things we read in the sacred scriptures need not be taken literally. But I think that the key is that one can have a balanced view and still be on solid ground.

Examples: In some cases it’s quite obvious. As with the parables of Jesus. We know that the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan are fictional stories, made up by Jesus, to make a point.

On the other hand, there are some other stories, typically from the old testament, that are BIG stories, that may also be fictional. Take for instance, the story of Creation. St. Augustine quite early on, expressed an opinion that it might be more like a parable.

He had noted that there are actually two creation stories within the Book of Genesis. So which is right? What’s at work here? Moses is said to have been the author of those early books and so we wonder what he meant.

The Church does teach that the bible is the inspired Word of God, and that the author is the Holy Spirit. It says that the world was created by God and that we have an original set of parents.

But literary standards were different back then. Could it be mainly a mythical tale used to make a spiritual point, or to lay a general groundwork of our Judeo-Christian belief system?

Having said that, some modern biblical scholars and theologians have definitely overstepped their bounds and they end up denying some fundamental truths.

This past week I was re-visiting the story of Padre Pio and how his “authenticity” was challenged by some of those “cutting edge” scholars who were trying to update Church teaching. Their intent was get us out of the Middle ages and into the real world.

But the Padre had the gift of the stigmata, the wounds of Christ impressed on his body. He performed miracles, healed people of ailments of body, mind, and spirit, he bi-located ( that is , he could be in two places at the same time), he read the hearts of people who came to him in confession who were hiding some of their sins. And he touched the hearts of many through his holiness. He changed lives.

And yet, one of the contemporaries, the German Lutheran theologian Rudolph Bultman, said . “How can we use electric lights and radios and, avail ourselves of modern medicine, and at the same time believe in the mythical world of the New Testament?” In making a statement like that he might as well dismiss the virgin birth, and Jesus’s miracles, and even his resurrection. And many have and yet they still collect a paycheck from the Church.

So this is what the world has had to contend with for over a hundred years now. The traditional teachings challenged by the new and novel ideas of others. But again, I think that there’s a balanced view out there. We follow the Church’s lead.

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There are three instances of Jesus raising someone from the dead. This is the ultimate miracle of course. The raising of Lazarus is the most dramatic one. 4 days in the tomb. No question about his condition. He was dead. He was a “goner”.

Then there was the son of the widow of Nain, and finally, today’s reading, the daughter of Jairus.

Jesus in his love and compassion for the hurting people, brought these departed souls back to life. No mystery here, no myth. Jesus could do these types of things because he was God. That’s what we believe, and the Catechism says that we should understand this as a literal truth.

But it also teaches that it could be understood on another, symbolic level. We know that Jesus performed many different types of miracles. Expelling demons, curing the crippled, the deaf, the mute, the blind, the diseased.

Let’s for the moment focus on blindness. Yes, it would be good to have your sight restored, but we also know of spiritual blindness. Most of us are afflicted with this at some time in our lives. Can’t see the forest for the trees, we have scales on our eyes, we have blinders on. We have selective vision, that is we see what we want to see just as we hear what we want to hear, and do what we want to do.

And so, as with blindness, some of us are also spiritually dead or dying. And while raising someone from a literal death is quite rare, healing someone of spiritual death is not. Life can be restored in several ways. The most common of course, is in the confessional.

This represents a turnaround. It comes after a conversion. Someone repents of a former way of life and starts over. And it may happen several times in the course of one’s life. That’s ongoing conversion. God is prepared to welcome his prodigal children as often as they seek his forgiveness.

Again, in a few weeks we will be offering a Healing Mass here at Holy Spirit. I don’t anticipate the need for any of our priests to raise anyone from the dead in a literal way that evening, but I would be hopeful that we might be able to help some who come for some physical ailments, are suffering the effects of old age or any other serious disorder that plagues them, but also for spiritual healing.

And by that we could mean a healing from a spirit of rebelliousness, or intolerance. A spirit of anger or bitterness, or resentment.

Maybe some have dabbled in the occult practices and are now paying a dear price.

Maybe some are suffering from the misdeeds of others, and have endured  traumas, like some type of abuse, or a curse.

I should be clear that these can be natural ailments, or in some cases, demonic. The devil can use many means of exerting his influence and making us spiritually sick and in need of healing. He often attaches to the most vulnerable, like lonely or isolated.

I’ve done a lot of reading and research on the subject of evil influences in our lives and I would certainly hope to be able to increase my ability to bring healing to those who suffer in this way.

So again, bring yourself, or a loved one who suffers in body, mind, or spirit. But remember that those who suffer in spirit are often reluctant to, and resistant to spiritual intervention. It’s a type of rebelliousness that would hinder them from coming and asking for help. They have to perceive a problem. They have to want to be here. To a certain extent, this is where we all come in, in that we are called to pray for those individuals.

And I’d like to begin that right now.

Father God, please hear and answer our prayers for those who need a healing of spirit. They are unhappy Lord, though they may not even know it. Pour out your grace upon them, send them the advocate, the Holy Spirit, to persuade them to come forth, as we believe it is your desire to help them find their way back to you.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

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