04 February 2024

Things fall apart

5th Sunday OT

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St. Albert the Great, Irving

We think of “healing” as returning a sick or broken body back to its natural state. Kill the virus. Bandage the wound. Reset the bone. Remove the tumor. We can also think of “healing” as reestablishing the balance btw mind and body. Express the disordered emotions. Work through disappointments, betrayals, and losses. Conquer demons. Find some peace. The kind of healing Jesus does this morning is really something altogether different. Yes, he physically heals Simon's mother-in-law. And all the others who come to him. But he does more than reset their broken bodies. More than give them back their health. He sets them free. Free from sin, free from death – free from the inevitabilities of mortality. By healing these people, Jesus sets in motion a wave of spiritual remediation that reconnects his Father's children to the Holy Family and brings them into an inheritance that started building at the first Word of creation. He makes them sons and daughters of the Most High. So, to be healed by Christ is to be made whole and entire a perfected creature of the Father.

Job tells us what it's like to be imperfect creatures of the Father. We are miserable drudges. Restless hirelings and overworked slaves. Our days fly by and our nights are troubled. You can almost hear the despair in his voice: Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.” Of course, Job's unhappiness is not his fault. He's done nothing to deserve this misery. His friends interrogate him aggressively about any possible transgressions he's made against God's law. There are none. He's been abundantly blessed with a large family, material wealth, good health, and he's accounted righteous among his peers. Yet, he's tortured physically, mentally, and spiritually. He only learns “the why” of his ordeal at its end. He is a creature – a made thing – living in a mortal world subject to failure and death. Everything he has and is is of the world. All of it subject to failure and death. Nothing of the world is permanent. Nothing in the world is exempt from passing away. Health. Wealth. Family. Friends. All of it – himself included – is temporary. At the end, Job is taught: “Things fall apart.” Only God and those who belong to God endure. Jesus heals to make us possessions of God.

We should pray that we never need Job's lesson to learn the truth of our creatureliness. 21st century middle-class, American comfort can hypnotize us with the illusion of constancy, order, and progress. Things are tidy and always improving. And even when there are setbacks in our orderly progress, we're confident that some hard work and time will see things set right. We can turn to God for help. A good thing. We can turn to one another. Another good thing. But whether we turn to God and/or one another, things fall apart. Belonging to God in no way exempts us from the mortalities of the world. Job was as righteous as a righteous man could be. All those people Jesus healed – what had they done to deserve their diseases and broken bodies? Who deserves abject poverty, systemic violence, political oppression, or natural disaster? No one. But no one is protected from the consequences of being human. What Christ offers in his healing touch is a hope beyond the ravages of mortality. An assurance that this world is not our telos, our end. We are not abandoned, left to fend for ourselves. Created with a purpose, we have more than eating, sleeping, working, and reproducing to look forward to. When our mortality fails, Christ's healing immortality steps in to reveal the Biggest Possible Picture of God's plan for our salvation. That plan needs our cooperation. It requires our freely given assent for fruition. If you will be healed into the Holy Family, you will receive Christ and preach Christ and bear witness to your healing. In word and deed, you will proclaim your healed up wounds, your scars, and you will give God the glory.   

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