Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Good Shepherd HEALS his sheep

Christ, the Good Shepherd - 5th century - in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna, Italy. Jesus is presented as a strong shepherd with a cross, leading from among his sheep.

One of God’s complaints with the leaders of Israel of old was that they failed to bind up the wounded and care for those who were hurting. In fact, so great is his love for the suffering and wounded that through the prophet Ezekiel he says:

“I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, 
I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, 
and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak.” 
(Ezekiel 34:12-16)


When he brought Israel out of Egypt, the Lord spoke of his relationship with the people and said: 

“I am the Lord your healer” 
(Exodus 15:26) 

Centuries later, the Psalmist refers to this period of the Exodus and the journey into the Promised Land:

“. . . they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
he sent out his word, and healed them,
and delivered them from destruction.”
(Psalm 107:19-20)

The Psalmist also says that the Lord 

“heals the broken-hearted, and binds up their wounds.”
(Psalm 147:3)

It is against the backdrop of these Old Testament passages that Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd and says to his wounded sheep 

“I have come to bring you life in all its fulness” 
(John 10:10)

or, as we have already seen, in the words of the King James version, “that you may have life more abundantly.”

The miracles and healings performed by Jesus in the time of his earthly ministry proclaimed that God’s kingdom had arrived. The blind received their sight, the deaf were made to hear, the dumb spoke, and the lame leapt for joy - all messianic “signs” that Jewish people expected would herald the dawning of God’s new age.

When we read the Acts of the Apostles, we see that dramatic healings continued in the life of the early Church. And we’re not surprised when they happen even today, for 

“Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and for ever.” 
(Hebrews 13:8).

In fact, one of the amazing things is how the Lord’s ministry of healing has been revivedover the last hunderd and twenty years among Anglicans, Pentecostals and Charismatics, and eventually spread to most Christian traditions.

Sometimes wonderful healings occur through the sacramental ministry of the Church; sometimes through those to whom the Lord has given special “gifts of healing” (1 Corinthians 12:9). And, as we know, they happen through intercessory prayer at the healing shrines of Our Lady, like Lourdes and Walsingham. These healings can be immediate and dramatic, but usually they are gradual as we open our lives more and more to God’s love and power.


But it’s not just those with broken legs or heart conditions who need healing. Did you know that - depending on the particular research you study, and the shcool of thought you follow - between 50 and 90 per cent of all non- accident-caused physical sickness originates in the mind or emotions. In other words, it is psychosomatic or stress related. And depression, fear, anxiety, bitterness, guilt, unforgiveness, lack of self esteem, loneliness, vengefulness together with all the hurts and wounds we have accumulated on the inside sooner or later manifest themselves in physical illness. It is obvious, then, that if it were possible to embark upon a journey of “inner healing”, even our physical health would improve.

Well, the good news is that if you look at those things constituting the woundedness of our inner lives we have sometimes known since childhood - you’ll notice that they are the very areas in which Jesus our Good Shepherd longs to touch us.

As we pray, as we grow in faith, as we invite the Lord into every area of our lives, as we allow him to walk with us down our particular memory lane and bring his love and healing to bear on all sorts of areas where we have been crushed, wounded and broken, we enter into a new sense of personal freedom. Often that is related to the presence of Jesus with us in our struggle, helping us manage and get through the darkness. But sometimes we experience a deliverance that can only be described as a “miracle.” 

So many people who come here to Mass know the healing power of Jesus’ love. They have experienced heartbreak and tragedy, in some cases the collapse of their lives. But someone told them about Jesus - the risen Jesus who longs to make them whole, who reaches out to them in love, and they allowed him to touch them at the point of their need. They testify to the freedom they have found in him. 

Do you know he wants to touch YOUR life with his healing power today? He wants YOU to be free from the negative impact of the hurtful things that you have experienced. Jesus himself said in John 8:36: “If the Son makes you free, then you will be free indeed.” Did you hear that? Free indeed”!


In a little while, after the Consecration, it will be my awesome privilege to hold up the Holy Bread, the Blessed Sacrament and say: “Behold the Lamb of God; behold him that taketh away the sins of the world” And we will all respond:

“Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof, but speak the word only, and my soul shall be healed.”

What a moment! What a wonderful and powerful affirmation to have on our lips just before receiving Jesus as the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.

Sometimes when I am in the congregation somewhere else and the time comes for Holy Communion, and I need to draw on the healing power of Jesus for some aspect of my life, do you know what I do? I keep saying that affirmation under my breath while I’m standing in line, and while I’m kneeling at the altar rail: “my soul SHALL be healed”... “my soul SHALL be healed.”

After all, the greatest healing service we have is the Mass. Our faith does not create the Lord’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament. He is objectively present in all his divinity and his humanity, in all his love and his healing power. But by faith we DRAW on the blessing - the healing blessing - that he wants us to have, just as happened in the days of his earthly ministry. “. . . My soul SHALL be healed”.

Have YOU heard the voice of the Good Shepherd calling you today, calling you back to himself? 

Come home. Let Jesus bind up your wounds. Reach out to him now. Let him pour his healing oil on the hurts and wounds of the past, and you will find rest for your soul. 

He is calling you because he loves you. 

If you respond, if you open up to his love, if you surrender to him, your life will be changed.

The Good Shepherd is gloriously risen. I want you to remember and cherish the points I have shared with you about him, and take them to heart:

* that Jesus LOVES his sheep,

* he GUIDES his sheep, 

* he FEEDS his sheep,

* he PROTECTS his sheep . . .   and

* he HEALS his sheep.

Then, in the words of the well-known song, you will be able to say:

“Because he lives I can face tomorrow,
Because he lives all fear is gone,
Because I know - yes I know - he holds the future,
And life is worth the living, 
just because he lives.“


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