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REJOICING IN OUR ILLNESSES
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Monday, 5th Week of the Year, February 10, 2014
1 Kings 8:1-7, 9-13, Ps. 131, Mark 6:53-56


Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.


"And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or country, they laid the sick in the market places, and besought him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment; and as many as touched it were made well" (Mark 6:56).


Jesus was a healer, and on one occasion when he was briefly in Gennesaret, on the North-Eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, when the people heard who he was and that he was in their territory, they "ran about the whole neighborhood and began to bring sick people on their pallets to any place where they heard he was (Mark 6:55). This happened frequently in Jesus' life (Mark 6:56), and also, after his death, in the lives of his apostles. Wherever St. Peter was, "they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed" (Acts. 5:15-16). The same thing happened with St. Paul. "God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and evil spirits came out of them" (Acts 19:11-12).


The Christian faith began in this way with the aid of these extraordinary, visible signs and wonders. These visible miracles were necessary in the beginning so that people would believe in Jesus and in his apostles. Today as well we see miracles of this kind, but not as often as in the beginnings of the faith, for now the faith is established.


Now we see Jesus' healings more as signs of his desire and power to heal our spirit from sin and guilt, which is a far greater problem than physical sickness.


If we have faith, we can endure quite well our physical illnesses and live with joy of spirit, for we know and believe that these illnesses are God's will for us for our good at this point in our life. We know and believe that God is indeed blessing us through them, and we rejoice in this.


Indeed many are the blessings that come to us through our physical illnesses if we have faith in Christ. For example, an illness can prevent us from doing the kind of active work we once did when we were physically well, but this then gives us the time and opportunity to do another kind of work that previously we did not have the time to do. And knowing and believing that this is God's plan and will for us at this time of our life, we can rejoice in our illnesses and accept them as gifts from God, a blessing.


But to be happy in our physical illnesses, we need to be healed from our sins that darken our spirit and depress us, filling us with the pain of guilt. It is this much more serious illness of the spirit that Jesus primarily came to heal. His physical healings were mainly visible signs of his desire and power to heal us spiritually by forgiving our sins through the merits of his death on the cross, where he suffered our punishment for our sins for us so that God could justly forgive them, when we put our faith in Christ and confess them. In this sense, Christ is indeed our great healer and Savior.

 

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