Here at St. Paul’s in Detroit, I am a participant in a dialogue group simply named “Share and Prayer.” We pray and share about our experiences with racism. We read books together and share our impressions. I value the discussions we have just about every month. In the Brightmoor neighborhood, I join with others in prayer. I value these experiences as well.
I share all this because I feel that there is such a need for healing in our society and throughout the world, and that these interactions between people contribute to the healing that is needed. Healing is prominent in our Gospel reading for today. Jesus sends out the Twelve two by two, and gives them “authority over unclean spirits.” He instructs them not to take anything for the journey but a walking stick, and sandals on their feet. Mark tells us that the apostles “went off and preached repentance.” They “drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.”
So Jesus sends His disciples out to heal. I can’t help but think Jesus is sending us out to do the same. There are so many ways in which individuals and communities are hurting, from homelessness and hunger to despair and alienation, not to mention the divisions that exist among many of us.
So, how can we help in healing? Part of healing is realizing that you are sick and need help. That is not always easy to do. Have you ever been hesitant to go to your doctor because you don’t want to hear what the doctor may tell you? As we reflected last week, many times people don’t want to hear what they need to hear. We see that in our first reading from Amos. The priest Amaziah tells the prophet Amos to go home and prophesy there. And Amos responds that he is not a professional prophet; that God told him to go to Israel and he went. In the Gospel reading, the Twelve preach repentance. This is tricky. We can fall into the trap of calling others to repentance without looking at our own sin. This kind of preaching doesn’t help healing, but hinders it. No, as we may preach repentance, we don’t do it by demeaning others, but inviting them to join us as fellow sinners and turn back to God who is merciful and loving.
Most of all, we can help healing by giving of ourselves. This to me is the meaning behind Jesus telling the disciples not to bring anything but a walking stick for the journey. He is first telling them to depend on Him rather than in anything they may own. Second, He is telling them and us that the most important thing we can bring with us is ourselves. We help in the healing that is needed by being present to others and attend to their needs. We help in healing the divisions among us by taking the time to listen to people’s stories and the pain they have suffered. We may find that our stereotypes are unfounded, and their humanity is real.
If we come together in Christ, we will find that Jesus has given us authority over the “unclean spirits” of hatred and fear, greed and lust. As we have been healed by the love of God in Jesus Christ, may we share that love and help in the healing of the world.
Fr. Phil, CP