Faith-Healing-St. John Bosco


Faith and Holistic Healing:

Memorial of St. John Bosco

(Heb 12:1-4; Ps 22; Mk 5:21-43


Fr. Mike Dechant OMI did a lot of youth ministry in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He recounts the story of a young boy who shared with him the morning after a penitential rite in their school, “Gee, Fr. Mike, that was good yesterday afternoon, and I am still sinless!”

The readings today invite us to claim some of that little boy’s spirit – to have faith in Jesus, let go of all sin, experience profound healing, and live with joy.

The gospel is all about faith and holistic healing. Jairus believes Jesus can prevent the death of his twelve-year old daughter, and the woman suffering from haemorrhages for twelve years believes Jesus can heal her if she only touches the hem of his garment.

Mark deliberately highlights the number twelve in his gospel, to underline the deeper nature of the situations presented. Both the girl and the woman are stricken with an inability to give life, to be generative – the girl dead at the age of puberty, while the woman has been barren and unclean for twelve years.

Jairus is totally powerless in the face of death, and the doctors completely powerless in the face of the disease. Jesus heals the woman, and raises the girl to life, showing he has power over illness and death – a holistic power to not just heal physically but also to restore life.  Jesus gives that life-giving force back to both of them. The verb used is “saved” which Jesus is challenged to do on the cross – to save himself from death. This all suggests the new life he can and will give, by the gift of his own death and resurrection, to those who believe in him.

The reading from Hebrews speaks of freedom from sin. It is a poetic, eloquent, powerful encouragement to us to let go of the sin “that clings so closely” to us. Biblically sin is described by the word hamartia, which means “falling short of the mark.” It can be compared to a child disappointing a loving parent by his or her behaviour, or to an arrow failing to reach a target.

St. John of the Cross uses a very effective image to convey this truth about sin. For him, a bird is not free whether it is bound by a strong cord, or by a thread, until it breaks that cord or thread. Even one sinful habit or character defect spoils our spiritual freedom and joy. This is perhaps a glimpse into the meaning of so much violence in the Old Testament. It is a metaphor teaching us to get rid of anything that stands between us and that elusive joy that comes only from God. One alcoholic said at a meeting, “I get this. I can’t have an ounce of alcohol in my system or I will die. I have to let go of it totally, to die to it!”

This is an invitation for us to come to Jesus both for forgiveness, and also to let go of any and all secret or private sins, falling short of what our loving Father expects of us, out of faith in Jesus and his love for us.

Richard Rohr defines good spirituality as letting go. Ron Rolheiser adds the element of letting go of the things of the earth. The invitation is for us to make a radical break from our favourite sins, to make a leap of faith, and to break whatever thread may still be binding us.

We do not do this on our own power. Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is the model, the “pioneer and perfecter of our faith,” who suffered for us for the sake of the joy before him. And that is the key and ultimate motivation – the joy that comes to us when we are “sinless before the Lord.” That joy is so much greater than any momentary pleasure we may experience from giving in to our favourite sins. Like St. Ignatius of Loyola, we have a choice: we can give in to temptation and experience a moment of pleasure followed by pervasive sadness and guilt, or putting our faith in Jesus, say no to that temptation as he did, and immediately experience a joy that will linger for hours.

The message for us from these readings is clear: We are first of all forgiven by Jesus’ death on the cross. We also need healing of all kinds: physical like the woman, and personal, as in Hebrews, from our sinfulness, painful emotions such as anger and resentment, negative attitudes like false pride and stubborn self-will, and even addictions. Breaking these threads (or cords) opens us up to receive the joy that is a sharing in eternal life already. All we need do is to believe and come to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, for both forgiveness and healing.

Someone who certainly lived today’s readings, and especially encouraged youth to life a new way of life, is St. John Bosco whom the church honors today. Known to many as Don Bosco, this patron saint of youth was born in Piedmont, Italy, in 1815. Raised in poverty, John was ordained in Turin in 1841. After witnessing the circumstances of boys living in a local prison, he resolved to devote himself to working among disadvantaged boys – children living on the street, juvenile delinquents and any child wo was suffering because of some disadvantage.

John formed the Salesian Society, named Francis de Sales, and began educating boys of the poor and working classes, holding evening classes in factories, in fields or wherever there was a need. John believed in equipping boys for life in the world and trade schools soon formed a large part of Salesian training. A progressive thinker, he abhorred all punishment, believing that by removing youth from temptation, treating them with dignity and kindness, and enriching them with skills, they could be led to more productive lives. His rule was “Not with blows, but with charity and gentleness must you draw these friends to the path of virtue.” With the help of St. Mary Mazzarello he also established the Salesian Sisters to do similar work among girls. John Bosco died in 1888 and was canonized in 1934.

The Eucharist is an act of faith, an experience of forgiveness and healing at all levels, and a source of joy. So remember, the readings today invite us to claim some of that little boy’s spirit – to have faith in Jesus, let go of all sin, receive forgiveness for them, experience profound healing and live with joy that only Jesus can give.

Updated: January 31, 2023 — 5:20 am

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