28th Sunday - homily
God’s healing power! A couple of weeks ago, a mother brought in her 13 year old daughter, Callie, to see me. Callie has been having health problems for a long time, especially with her heart. As things seemed to be getting worse for them and it looked like Callie would need a heart transplant, they came in hoping for a miracle. I prayed over her, anointed her, and blessed her with Lourdes water. We were all filled with hope that somehow she would get better.
Then, two days later, they received the news they didn’t want to receive: the doctors said she definitely needed a heart transplant. Callie went to the hospital and I visited her last Monday. Her mom told me that it could be as long as a year before a heart transplant was possible. Things did not look good. I kept praying for them and asked others to do so. Then, just last Thursday, a call came in that a heart was available! The doctors moved quickly, and Callie had a heart transplant operation that night. The dangerous procedure went well, and Callie is doing okay. She is not out of the woods yet, but there are many reasons to hope.
Her mother told me the other day that there is something bigger at work here than all of us. She noted that the way things have happened lately shows her that. We were hoping that God would heal this precious girl, and it appears that He has, with the help of science. It’s not about me – it’s about the power of God coming through me, the holy oil, the Lourdes water, all the prayers from so many, and through the faith of Callie and her mom. I ask all of you to say a prayer for Callie and her mom.
This tradition of bringing a sick person to a priest goes back thousands of years. We hear about this in today’s readings. In the first reading, Naaman is cleansed of his leprosy by Elisha, a man of God. It was the Jewish custom for people with diseases to go to the priests. This was done for two reasons: to be cleansed of their illness and to be brought back into society because they were seen as outcasts. The Jewish view was that physical diseases were linked with evil spirits, so it was almost as if the priests were performing exorcisms. Jesus reaffirms this tradition when the ten lepers ask him to be healed. He tells them to go see the priests. They show their faith in Christ by their obedience to Him. As they are on their way to see the priests, Christ heals them of their leprosy.
Now, Christ continues the tradition of healing through priests, but has offered it in a few news ways. He has instituted two sacraments of healing that we call Anointing of the Sick and Confession. Anointing of the Sick is mainly for the spiritual healing of the sick person. It builds up the person’s strength and courage in their suffering. If God wills any physical healing, so be it. I have witnessed a few times when people whom I’ve anointed have experienced some kind of physical healing. One woman was in her nineties and seemed to be in her final hours when the family called. She was very unresponsive and not able to communicate at all when I anointed her. The family told me that shortly after I left, she perked up. She was able to communicate with them for about a week and they were able to say their goodbyes to her. God’s healing power!
Now, we might wonder how Confession comes into play with God’s healing power. First, we all have a disease similar to the ten lepers in the Gospel. It is the disease of sin. In fact, we understand their leprosy to represent our sin. Just as Christ healed them of their leprosy, He can heal of our sin in Confession. If we approach Confession with the same faith that they approached Jesus with, then he can drive out sin in our lives as he drove out their leprosy. He has the power to do it, no matter how big the sin and no matter how long we have been doing it. It is the same Jesus and the same power. God’s healing power!
Finally, only one of the ten lepers returns to thank Jesus for healing him. The Greek word for thanksgiving is eukareisteon (sp?), from which we get the word, Eucharist. We are like the one leper whenever we come to the Eucharist to give thanks to God for all that He has done for us. As we receive the Body and Blood of Christ today, let us be open to His healing power. Let us approach our Lord with the same faith that Naaman, the ten lepers, and so many who have been cured by Christ. It is our hope that He will say to us what He has said to them: “Your faith has saved you”.