Imagine it’s a hot summer night and you’re watching TV in the comfort of your air-conditioned home. And then suddenly…the power shuts down and you find yourself sitting in darkness. And everything suddenly gets very quiet– it’s amazing how much background noise is produced by the air conditioning and the different machines in our house. We don’t notice it until it’s no longer there. And then little by little it starts to kind of stuffy and uncomfortable inside the house.
When we lose power, it’s interesting how vulnerable we suddenly become. There’s so much we can do with electricity which we take for granted, and which we are unable to do on our own. For those who need electricity to get running water, things can go south really fast when we lose power.
In our Gospel reading today, we heard a story within a story: the story of a woman who had been suffering from some kind of hemorrhage for the previous 12 years. And she knew that if she touched Jesus’s cloak, she would be healed. And it says that Jesus felt power go out from him when the woman reached out and touched his cloak. This of course is a different kind of power from the electricity that we are so dependent on. However, we are likewise dependent on this power that Jesus has. And we are even more dependent on Jesus’ power than we are on the electricity that powers so much of our lives.
Think of it this way: both the woman with the hemorrhage and the daughter of the synagogue official Jairus were utterly incapable of healing themselves. The woman with the hemorrhage had gone to doctors looking for healing, but none of them were able to help her. In fact, it says that she had “suffered greatly at their hands.” Jairus’ daughter had died of her illness; neither she nor anyone else could raise her from the dead – except of course Jesus. It was only through his power that the woman was healed of her hemorrhage and that the daughter of Jairus, who had been dead, suddenly got and began walking around.
Nor can we heal ourselves or return to life through our own power. But Jesus has the power to do those things. Because he is God, of course he has the power to do that. So the Lord can and sometimes does bring about truly miraculous healings that science cannot explain. It is certainly fair to ask Jesus to heal us or someone else who is suffering from a physical illness. If it his will, he has the power to do it.
But more than physical healing, Jesus desires to heal us spiritually. He desires to heal us of our spiritual illnesses – any habit or tendency in us that separates us from God and others. He desires to heal us of our sinful inclinations and patterns. After all, both the woman with the hemorrhage and the daughter of the synagogue official both later died. They – and we – were not made to be in this life forever. So while Jesus can heal us physically, spiritual healing is so much greater and more necessary, because while this body will pass away, our souls will not.
And we are utterly incapable of healing ourselves spiritually. We absolutely need the power of Jesus Christ to overcome the sinful habits and tendencies in us. We cannot do it on our own. If we try to, we might have some success for awhile, but ultimately we’ll crash and burn. We cannot achieve our salvation on our own. Only the power of Jesus Christ, through his death and resurrection, can bring about our salvation.
But we do have a little role to play in this nonetheless. Like the woman in our Gospel reading, we have to reach out to Christ. We have to have faith that Jesus has the power to do it: to forgive our sins, to transform us, to give us salvation. We have to go to Jesus in prayer and ask for this spiritual healing again and again, as often as necessary.
And likewise, we can intercede for others. Just like Jairus, the synagogue official, who sought out Jesus not for his own sake but for his daughter’s, we too can go to the Lord and ask for the physical healing of someone else. God has the power to do it. But we can and should also intercede with the Lord for the spiritual healing of others. We all know people who are in need of this kind of healing: people who are estranged from the Church, people who have no relationship with the Lord, or people who feel powerless against an addiction or a sinful habit which controls them. Sometimes they might welcome our intercession or our prayers for them; sometimes they might not. But we can and should still pray for them regardless, again and again, as long as necessary.
Spiritual healing is the kind of healing that Jesus promises each of us if we ask him for it, if we reach out to Jesus, and have faith that he has the power to do it.
• July 1, 2018 at St. Luke’s