Vices & Healing: 28th Sunday

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I’ve seen it many times in my ministry over the past 30 years in my  work with hundreds of people in AA. I’ve seen lives that were corrupted by the leprosy of addiction, with broken marriages, abandoned families, lost jobs, lives full of rage or depression or despair – lives that were a wasteland and a desert, lives seemingly ruined by the leprosy of alcoholic addiction, lives now healed and flourishing by the touch of God’s hand by the touch of God’s grace – Amazing Grace – the story of today’s Gospel, happening again and again

Modern Day Miracles

People in AA are not saints – don’t get me wrong.  And it takes time for the miracle to happen. I recently met one man in AA whom I know from the mid 80’s when he came on our AA retreats when I worked in our retreat center here.  He was in pretty bad shape in the 80’s. But he was no longer drinking, and he was going to AA Meetings, and working with his sponsor.

I met him recently, and was I surprised!  He’s doing great. He has a job. He is still very active in AA, and he’s a sponsor for other men in AA.  He’s a responsible, productive, and life-giving human being once more. He’s not perfect – he’d be the first one to tell you that.  But he’s not a wasted human being, like he used to be. And he attributes all of that to God’s power as it touched him and formed him anew thru the AA Program… A miracle.  “I make all things new.”

What about you and me? What needs to be made new in our lives? What’s keeping us from being the people God wants us to be?

I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW

In Mel Gibson’s film Passion of the Christ there is a touching scene during Christ’s carrying the Cross thru the narrow streets of Jerusalem, where the wounded, bleeding, struggling Jesus comes close to his mother who is trying to reach out to him and Jesus says to his crying mother… “I make all things new.”  Gibson’s film certainly has caused a lot of controversy, and its depiction of bloodshed is probably overdone but it is a powerful statement of what Jesus went thru to accomplish his mission and that statement to his weeping mother, “I make all things new,” is a powerful summary of what Jesus’ mission entailed.

Jesus has come to make all things new… encouraging us and teaching us that God is present in our everyday life – the pilgrimage of our life beginning now in this world, and ending in the new heavens and the new earth that John’s Book of Revelation, chapter 21, promises. Today’s Scripture Readings refer to this new life that Jesus brings. In the first reading from 2 Kings, we read how God cleansed the soldier Naaman who suffered from a terrible skin disease.  Naaman followed the instructions of God’s prophet Elisha, and was made like new.

We are taught that God would cleanse us and heal us of the leprosy of our sinfulness, our guilt, our regrets and our hurts, if we would but follow Jesus, God’s Word now made flesh. Such was the promise of God, the promise that Jesus came to proclaim. But, God’s people would not listen - how hard it is to listen to God and do God’s will.

In the Gospel we see Jesus at work, doing God’s will bringing healing to wounded and outcast lepers, bringing the rivers of his Father’s grace and mercy into the wasteland of rejected and spurned hearts. We see Jesus having pity on the lepers and healing them, despite the lack of gratitude on the part of so many of them. Jesus came to “make all things new.”

What About Us?

The next question is… so what?  What does this mean to us? Do you and I take part in Jesus’ “making all things new?”  How?

We are a special part of God’s Kingdom, for by our Baptism we have been brought close into God’s household, we have become vital parts of God’s Kingdom. God’s plan to make all things new. Sin has disrupted the flourishing of God’s plan – from the beginning. And sin continues to disrupt this flourishing of God’s plan even today.

Jesus has conquered sin by his suffering and death – but the working out of that victory takes place in our world even to this day and in our lives even to this day. For sinfulness struggles with grace, the destructive powers of sin corrupt our flourishing, and lay waste our world. But Paul reminds us in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Romans, where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds even more. We see this in today’s beautiful and hope-filled Gospel story.  

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Just go through the 7 deadly sins – those powers of death, those engines of personal destruction that corrupt our lives and turn us into self-centered, selfish, and self-pampered individuals – shallow entertained consumers, who are consumed by what we consume.

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What do we take to Jesus this day to touch and heal and make new?

What leprosy do the seven deadly sins create in our hearts? Does envy and jealousy consume hearts, or perhaps resentments and anger and bitterness eat away at our hearts – it’s so hard to forgive. What about greediness – always wanting more, even if we don’t really need it?  Or can’t afford it?

Are we lazy – a couch potato – never really interested in doing anything to help anyone else?  Or always procrastinating, never quite getting around to it?

Are we spiritually lazy – not bothering pray each day, and not bothering to bring God into our everyday lives in our neighborhood, our school, our job, even our family?

Are we trapped by lust – a $12 billion dollar a year industry in our culture?  Are we of the opinion that a little porn doesn’t hurt anyone. It hurts men who begin to view woman as boy toys, and it hurts women who feel like just another piece of meat, up for grabs.

Are we a bit too arrogant – as if we are so much better than so many others? Do we give thanks for our blessings, rather than showing them off too vainly?

Are we a bit too gluttonous - too much food, too much booze, too much shopping –trying to fill our need for God with all these other things? How do we need to be made new – personally?  

Can we cry out with the lepers of today’s Gospel: Jesus, Master, have pity on us. Jesus, I bring myself to you sinner that I am. Help me not to get depressed by the leprosy of my sinfulness, nor give in to mediocrity. Bring your healing touch to my sinfulness and make me new, as you did the lepers in today’s Gospel. And Jesus, bring the loving touch of your healing to the wasteland of my worries, my fears and doubts and despairs, my wonderings and wanderings and make me new, as you did the lepers in today’s Gospel.  

What About Our World?

While we look to Jesus to make us anew, I believe we also need to look at our world and ask for Jesus’ healing power and wisdom in helping the leprosies of our world.  We need to fall to our knees and ask God’s mercy and healing for our country… where abortion is rampant, where the elderly are so often overlooked, and have to choose between food and medicine, where many are well fed, but many are hungry where there are so many rich, and so many unemployed or underemployed -  the so called working poor, where over 40 million people do not have adequate health care, where too often we poison our earth to raise our food.

 

I don’t pretend to know the answers to these problems but I do know that rather than get lost in the leprosy of anger, bitterness and rage over our society’s problems, I can ask that God’s mercy flow upon our fellow citizens, and God’s wisdom refresh and give life to our leaders as they deal with these complex and difficult problems and perhaps I can become involved with at least one of these issues, becoming part of the solution, rather than just being angry with the problem. As we continue with this Eucharist, let us ask God’s mercy upon ourselves and our sinfulness, and let us ask God’s mercy and God’s wisdom for our country.  As we receive Jesus’ very Body and Blood today, we ask Jesus to let the healing touch of his mercy come into our lives, refresh us, and make us new. Amen.

 
Joe Farris