Faith essential to healing a broken world

  • February 13, 2009
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Feb. 22 (Isaiah 43:18-19, 20-22, 24-25; Psalm 41; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12)

We have a massive memory problem. Those things that we are supposed to remember slip like sand through fingers. Included in this category are the principles of spiritual and humane living and the ethics of God’s kingdom, as well as the many blessings and graces we have received from God or others. We also forget the most important thing in life: why we are here.

But there are some things we never forget. High on that list are the hurts that have been inflicted on us and the grudges we bear. Resentment is incredibly long-lived. We also tend to forget the blessings from God and others, or at least they do not immediately come to mind. This is a classic case of “But what have you done for me lately?” But our happiness and our spiritual growth is hindered by another human habit: we cling to old opinions and ideas and refuse to let go.

The message from Isaiah is a challenge: don’t live in the past or pine for the good old days. Do not close your hearts to the fresh and new. God assures the people that He is going to surprise and shock them — new things are afoot. Be prepared for the extraordinary, for God will operate in surprising new ways.

There is a tone of wistfulness in the divine voice — people have not called upon God or shown true signs of devotion. They are content to burden God with their sins and complain when things are not going well. Never mind, God says, I will wipe the slate clean and we can start over. But be prepared to let go of many things. Living in the past and clinging to the things of old can close our minds and hearts to the presence and activity of God in our midst. In the difficult times in which we live there is a temptation to circle the wagons and grasp desperately at what we think is solid and stable. But only God should fill that role and God challenges us to step into the unknown and allow ourselves to be guided and taught by the spirit. God will not put everything back the way it was nor is that desirable. God will create something new and alive.

Lukewarm faith and divided minds and hearts are not what Christianity is about. In fact, the early Christians considered this a very serious sin. Paul tells us that in Christ every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” What a wonderful thought, but he also adds that we need to respond with the “Amen.” Amen — so often used merely as the closing word in a prayer — means “Yes! Do it! Let it be so!” When we proclaim “Amen” there is no room for “Yes” and “No” — only “Yes.” Doubt, cynicism and despair are corrosive and destructive things that limit the effectiveness of God’s activity.

“No” is not in the minds of the paralysed man’s friends. They know that Jesus can and will heal their friend and they literally tear the roof off the house in order to get at Him. And it is this intense faith that caught Jesus’ attention — He immediately responds by proclaiming the forgiveness of the man’s sins. Faith has overcome both sin and physical illness. This is the heart of the ensuing controversy, for forgiving sins is God’s exclusive prerogative. Obviously this man’s physical state was connected in some way to his spiritual and moral condition and Jesus recognizes the need for healing on a deeper level.

Our modern awareness of the close connection between mind and body would be in fundamental agreement. God’s nature is to heal and give life and Jesus refuses to be stingy or controlling with God’s compassion. The power that Jesus exercises in both healing and forgiving sins leaves the onlookers absolutely stunned. But He makes it clear that it is the faith of the man and his friends that has made it possible.

Human faith is the essential element in the healing of broken hearts and bodies, as well as our hurting planet. Forgiveness, a willingness to change and letting go of the past are the stepping stones in our journey to the level of faith sufficient to open a path for the power of God.