The more cynical among us have said that of all the miracles that Jesus performed in his public ministry, only one may have been a mistake - and that is the cure of a mother-in-law! Of course, rather than continuing to feed the tradition of putting down mothers in laws - Jesus in his healing ministry reached out to bring wholeness to all people, including mothers in laws!
God’s word as we gather this Sunday is one that pulses with an urgency - an urgency to proclaim the gospel, speak the good news, enflesh it in the miraculous healings that were so much a part of the mission and ministry of Jesus.
St. Paul in writing to the early Christian community at Corinth speaks of this urgency in terms of an “obligation”. He goes on to say, "woe to me if I do not preach it!" It was precisely this mission that now defined his deepest identity. Being a bearer of God’s good news to the world now became the passion that shaped his present life and future destiny.
I find it more that just a little interesting that St. Paul takes up this divine calling which he received from the Savior himself while paradoxically on the road to persecute those who had given their lives to the Good News of Christ. Filled with fanatical zeal, St. Paul experiences a profound conversion that turned this hatred for the gospel into its most ardent and passionate preacher.
On the road to Damascus, Saul encounters the overpowering presence of Jesus who transforms that self-righteous demon that holds him captive and now sets him free to speak and live and eventually die for the one whom he first persecuted. It was out of this encounter with the risen Lord that Paul’s whole life would find its only meaning in Jesus and him crucified and risen in glory.
The same Jesus who called Paul and transformed his demons of doubt and fanaticism into a passion to preach good news is the one who brings healing of mind and heart to all who came to him with broken lives and shattered hearts. Good teacher that he was, Jesus dramatically captured the attention of his audience by performing healing miracles. But the more profound healing that the Lord brought to our world ran much deeper than giving sight to blind eyes and strength to legs paralyzed from birth. The scriptures speak of Jesus expelling demons. While scholars tell us that epilepsy and other forms of seizure were often misunderstood as signs of demonic possession, the real demons that Jesus came to expel were those that imprisoned lives in hypocrisy, rash judgment, and an unforgiving heart. These demons can paralyze the human spirit and keep us far from the reign of God.
My brothers and sisters as we open our lives to the Good News this day and prepare, in a few weeks, for the great season of Repentance that will be upon us, may the Lord stretch out his healing hand to bring wholeness to our lives. In humility let us lay before the divine physician those demons that can keep us from both living and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. May the Lord who heals the brokenhearted, transform the inner darkness of hypocrisy, rash judgment and an unforgiving heart that may hold us captive. May we come to experience the unsurpassing freedom of the sons and daughters of God who have indeed been made whole in Christ our Savior.