Saturday, September 8, 2018

23rd Sunday of Year B (Gospel: Mark 7:31-37) Sickness and healing within the Church

"I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance" (Rev 2:19)

From the time I was ordained, every time I celebrate the mass there is one line that nearly always stands out in my mind. It is the line after the consecration of the wine where the priest says, ‘This is the chalice of my blood, which will be poured out for you and for many, so that sins may be forgiven.’ That really sums up what the whole mass is about. That is what the death and resurrection of Jesus is about; ‘so that sins may be forgiven.’

More recently I find myself hearing the words at the beginning of the consecration which say, ‘On the night he was betrayed…’ What we are going through at this time, is the revelation of a terrible betrayal of Christ within our Church and it is very painful.

During the week we had a meeting at the cathedral for all the priests of the diocese along with our bishop. This was to address the whole abuse scandal in the Church. I wish that you could have been there and heard the anger, pain and frustration that was expressed by so many priests, at what has happened. I think it is good to be reminded that all of us priests are as angry and disheartened as any of you. You can imagine how difficult it makes our work as priests.

The challenge for all of us at this time, is not to give up, but to stay faithful and above all to keep our eyes fixed on the Lord. He is the only one that matters and all of us are trying to follow the path that leads to him. During the week I read on Facebook a message from a young mother who wrote: ‘The best thing we can do now is to raise the best generation of Catholics ever.’ That is the right approach. The best thing we can do is to live our faith as well as we possibly can and to bear witness to Jesus by the way we live.

On the night he was betrayed, Jesus said to Peter, ‘
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:31-32).

Judas betrayed Jesus to death, but Peter also publicly swore three times, that he never knew who Jesus was. But later Jesus helped him to recover and then made him the first leader of his Church.

Our Church belongs to the Lord. It is his Church and He will continue to guide it and heal it from this terrible time of betrayal. Everywhere Jesus went, he healed people, helped them back on their feet and encouraged them to keep going. In today's Gospel we have another account of healing and not only that, but the sensitivity that Jesus had towards the man and his disability. He healed him in as private a way as he could. There are many accounts of the different characters in the Bible who wanted to give up because following God’s path had become so difficult. Each time the Lord pushed them to keep going, not to give up and I am sure that is what He is saying to us now. Just keep going and keep your eyes focused on me, not on the world. 366 times in the Bible are the words ‘Do not be afraid’ and they are there for a reason.

Diseased flesh must be removed so the body can be healed and that is what is happening now. God will heal us, because it is his Church and he loves us. What we are called to do, is to be faithful.
Thus says the LORD:
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you. (Is 35:4-5)

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