Thursday, November 19, 2009

Healing Mass - Fr Damian Feeney

The Vice-Principal, Fr Damian Feeney, gave this homily at a Healing Mass organized by one of the pastoral groups in the College as part of their ongoing formation.

Healing is central to the Good News of Jesus Christ. Throughout the gospels there are countless healing stories. Some of these relate to physical healings – people who are physically sick or disabled, who experience physical healing and liberation. Other healings relate to a person’s inner state, including deliverance from unhealthy mental or spiritual conditions, or even – more rarely – genuine possession. Still further healings are less obvious – the healing of people caught in sin, the reconciliation which Jesus brings about between people who are at odds, the tranquillity which comes from acceptance. These healings are all marvellous signs from Jesus of God’s love, power and grace. And we should remember that the healing which Christ offers extends way beyond what he is prepared to do for those who open himself up to his grace without reservation or condition. This is the Christ who heals communities – how else did Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness finally come together and say that enough was enough? This is the Christ who pours his balm on Soham and Dunblane, on Hungerford and Aberfan, through his grace, and through his solidarity with suffering as he sheds his blood on the cross. This is the Christ who breaks down barriers, such as the Berlin Wall, Apartheid in South Africa, and who we pray can bring the people of Zimbabwe back from the brink of despair. In the renewed understandings and imperatives concerning climate change and ecology, it is Christ whose grace and impetus seeks to heal and renew this tiny bit of the created order in the vastness of his glorious creation. With my heart I believe all those things, as surely as I believe in Christ’s capacity to heal me from my sin, my disfigurement, and all the things which hold me back from truly loving him.

When we come to God for healing, we are inviting him to be part of a process. That means a number of things. First of all, the healing we desire may not in fact be the healing we need. There is a story of a lady who heard that a healing service was planned in her parish, and she went and told the priest that she wouldn’t be coming as she didn’t believe in, or trust healing services. She then complained of a blinding headache which she’d had for a couple of days. The priest told her that nevertheless, at ten past eight he would offer intercessions for her healing. The next morning the Priest rang his parishioner to find out how she was. She said ‘I’m so glad I didn’t go to that nonsense last night. At ten past eight the telephone rang. It was my son – you didn’t know I had a son? Well – I don’t talk about him. He cleared off a few years ago and we had a row, and we haven’t been in touch at all since. Well, last night he rang – and said how sorry he was that he had fallen out – and to tell me about the grandchild I never knew I had, and to invite me to come and stay. Just as well that I didn’t fall for the healing thing. Anyway, your prayers didn’t work – I’ve still got the headache!

If we have expectations, it is as well to abandon them – and abandon them to God. When we ask God for healing, we are inviting the one who truly knows – and knows better than us – what we need. Very often the true cause or causes of illness and disease are not really clear to us, especially if they are tied to painful memories of things which have happened to us in the past. Healing might be a realisation that our pain is tied to one thing or another, and the grace and strength to do something about it. Healing might be true abandonment and acceptance of the way we are, recognising that God is still able to work in us far more than we can ask, expect, or think. Healing can be serenity for the stressed, peace for the broken hearted, comfort for the afflicted, mercy and forgiveness for those whose lives are blighted with wrongdoing.

There are numbers of ways in which God’s healing can be brought to bear, because it is something that God longs for. If that were not so, would Jesus have spent so much time healing others? The means of healing which are offered in this service are simple, biblical and have formed part of the tradition of the church since the days of Christ himself. Tonight in this Mass we are offered forgiveness If you want help guiding your prayers then that can also be offered as you seek God’s healing in your life. Maybe there is someone you would like especially to bring to God tonight – someone in need of healing - but can’t find quite the words you need and would like to be guided in your prayers. There will be two prayer stations available at the end of the Mass, where your will be assisted in your prayers by others if you so wish. In addition, all of us have the opportunity tonight to experience the ministry of the Laying on of hands and Anointing. This simply means that, according to ancient custom, hands are laid on the head whilst prayer is offered, and our heads and hands are anointed with oil according to ancient custom. Such signs, like those of the Mass, are real, available, and speak to us of the boundless grace of God. Thus tonight the church in this place seeks to enable the healing which Jesus came to bring among his people tonight. My prayer for you all, and for myself, so in need of his healing grace, is that tonight we will be open to this grace as never before, and that we will feel the fruits of Christ’s presence among us. He came to earth to heal creation, to heal the world, to heal his people. May he visit us tonight, and may we know his healing touch in our hearts, minds, souls, and lives.