What I would like to focus on today are roles of Jesus as healer but more importantly as thanksgiving. There is a progression from one to another, and it is only at the second – the celebration, the thanksgiving – that Jesus tells the Samaritan that his faith has saved him. Perhaps there is an important lesson for us in respect of our role as the body of Christ within our community, in respect of our baptismal mission to proclaim the Word of God to the world.
First, what is this progression? Well, the first step is not nothing. The recognition of one’s need of healing, the recognition that Christ might provide that healing are serious moments in the spiritual life. We actually see this a lot at the moment. Notwithstanding the horrible name that the Church has currently in society, people are still seeking out the Church for healing. For example, you only have to speak to principals of Catholic schools these days to hear how many parents are choosing to send their children to our schools precisely on the grounds of pastoral care. Most of these parents are not Catholic, but their children are suffering and so they seek us out. The same thing happens on so many other fronts. As I said, this is not nothing.
However, Jesus does tell only the Samaritan that his faith has saved you. The Samaritan does something more, namely gives thanks, which separates him from the pack. How could we understand this and how could this help us as parishes?
Perhaps one way to think about this is moving from sickness to health and then moving from health to purpose. We all know there is a big difference between being sick and being healthy. But I think we would all agree that there is also a big difference from simply being healthy to being purposeful. To have meaning in my life. To having a reason to use my health.
I think I have mentioned before that when it comes to the Church’s teaching, we sometimes forget that all the little no’s or the “thou shalt nots” are for the purpose of a resounding yes. And in fact, we don’t understand the no’s until we are defined by the great Amen of our faith. Perhaps it is the same here. We do not understand the work of healing until we realise that it is for the purpose of worshipping God. A fulfilled human life is not simply having what we need but using what we have. We are created to praise God. We become who we are in the very act of praise.
This is a key lesson for how our parishes need to imagine our service to the community. Yes, we must be a place of healing. And we all know how much healing our society needs. We had a good discussion about that at our liturgy meeting. But more importantly, we need to provide a sense of worship, a reason for thanksgiving, an atmosphere of joy. We as people don’t just want to be healthy. We want to belong. To celebrate. To have truly meaningful lives. Lives that are grounded in thanksgiving and spill over in laughter and welcome. Lives conformed to the heart of God, a heart depicted as a wedding feast.
I have mentioned before how we as parishes have begun our process of analysing our facilities. This is as background to a discussion that we will have either later this year or earlier this year when the parishes will determine how we use what we have to better worship God and better worship our neighbour. It has been an interesting process trying to think through how best to run this and what parties need to be involved and what information we need the parishes to have.
One of the crucial things I have found is trying to explain to the consultants is that worship, love of God is the central determining factor in a successful parish. If we have no love of God, if we have no thanksgiving, then we are not offering something positive for people to choose. We are not giving people an alternative to the false hope and lies that the world offers.
And so the buildings are secondary to the prayer life of the parish. To the celebration of the Eucharist. In fact, even the healing is secondary, precisely because without thanksgiving, without life, there will be no-one around to do the healing.
Let’s pray then in this Mass for hearts that give thanks always. May our communities by distinguished by this. May they radiate this. May our faith save us and save our brothers and sisters, too.