3/17/13, Go Walk In Your Healing

Isaiah 43:16-21, Philippians 3:8-14, John 8: 1-11

This is the final Sunday of Lent!  Lent, literally a word for springtime, reminds us of our desire for a fresh start in life, of our longing for wholeness and healing.  Perhaps over the years we become a little jaded about these repetitive seasons of asking for fresh starts: for healing, for forgiveness, for reconciliation.  Yet, as each year passes we become more aware of those things in life that disturb the closeness of our fellowship with the Divine.  What was not a problem one year comes to the surface at another time.  It’s like cultivating your garden every year and being surprised at the old roots and the new rocks that keep coming to the surface.  You just gotta deal with ’em before you can plant new seeds.

Today we are going to give the largest part of time in this Mass to a shared prayer for healing, because healing is what leads to reconciliation with the Divine and with one another.   We are going to use a sacramental touch of oil with our prayers.  So let me briefly explain the what of healing and the why of oil.

The dictionary says that to heal is to restore health or soundness, to set right or to repair a physical ailment, a relational brokenness or a sense of spiritual disconnection.  We may think that the prayer of anointing for healing is meant to be directed only towards the body, but those of us who are currently healthy in body often know that we are less than whole in other aspects of being.   Prayerful anointing for these ailments seems completely appropriate.

Why do we use oil as a sacramental sign of the grace of healing?  Our Hebrew ancestors employed oil as a healing ointment for wounds as well as for protection from the heat and dryness of the desert.  New Testament stories of Jesus healing people indicate that he employed touch, words, and physical substances.  So when we pray for healing we too may use words, touch and oil. 

Our gospel reading is the familiar story of the woman accused of adultery, to whom Jesus says, “Go on your way, but sin no more.”  What is sin?

Jesus views sin as a condition of the heart more than act of moral disobedience. Outward acts, according to Jesus, originate with inner attitudes.   Sin then, is any attitude or act that distorts one’s relationship with God. 

Sin could indeed be moral disobedience.  But it could also be the anger that rises from relational issues between humans.  Or it could be the lack of faith that one feels when life isn’t feeling comfortable or fair.  Healing is necessary for all of these instances of finding ourselves distanced in relationship with God. 

As a younger adult, I was caught in a web of secret sin that affected my health, my personal relationships and certainly my connection to God.  Reacting to certain painful emotional circumstances of my earlier years, I became anorexic and then bulimic.  After 15 years, I was so convicted by the fallacy of this double life that I sought healing prayer from a Quaker man whose humility and sincerity had touched me deeply.  With compassion, he hovered his hands above my head and offered a few simple words.  I don’t remember the words at all, but I do remember the sense of an electric current entering my head and healing my spirit.  When I rose from my knees this man looked me in the eyes and said, “Now go walk in your healing.”  (Go and sin no more.)

Those words have become perhaps the most important guiding principle of my life.  The truth was my spirit was healed through words and touch, but it was still part of the transforming work of heart that needed to happen for me to choose, over and over again, to reject 15 years of an ingrained habit that sought to alleviate my emotional pain with the comfort of food.  This was not easy. From time to time today, when I am lonely or feeling abandoned I am still tempted to fill an inner emptiness with food rather than with God.  I always have to choose to walk in my healing.

We can indeed be healed… but the essence of God that lives within each of us wants to become fuller and fuller through the exercise of our choice to walk each step of the journey in faith that we are being made whole.  We are in the process of restoration of our relationship with God when we seek healing of our own issues and our issues with others as well as when we seek healing of our bodies. 

So when Jesus says to the woman, go your way but sin no more, he is saying, “Go walk in your healing.”  Jesus did not condemn her for her human weakness but he invited her to choose wholeness.  It would be her choice to have a change of attitude that resulted in change of behavior, and finally would result in a restored relationship with God.

As community, let’s take these moments to pray for the many kinds of healing that are needed to bring wholeness to our lives as individuals and to the Kin-dom of God. 

By Sandi DeMaster