There are different forms of healing, and the deepest forms of healing may not always be the ones we think that we are looking for.
There is physical healing – like Bartimaeus who calls out to Jesus in today’s gospel reading, asking for his sight to be restored. This might be what most people think of when they think of healing, and in desperation and need we have probably found ourselves asking for God’s help to heal ourselves or the ones we love. And because the nature of healing lies in the realm of mystery, sometimes physical healing comes, and sometimes it doesn’t, in ways that can deeply frustrate, and anger and confuse us.
Then there’s healing of mind, and heart, and soul. Healing for grief and anger. Healing from despair or abuse. These, too, lie somewhat in the realm of mystery, in that even with wonderful therapists and supportive family and friends healing sometimes comes, or sometimes takes years or an entire lifetime, or sometimes manages to elude those seeking that healing altogether. That healing of all that needs healing does not always take place reminds us that this side of heaven, we exist in a broken world, where the light of Christ, perfect though it is, can only break in imperfectly upon our lives and our needs. The resurrecting work of the cross, including healing, will not be seen in its fullness until all things reconciled to Christ at the end of time.
So, I perhaps especially give thanks for the arms of community that can support us and others on this journey of living and the ongoing search for healing in all its forms. Including our faith communities, if we will allow these imperfect vessels for God to be a part of Christ’s reaching work of healing in our lives and for the world.
Indeed, speaking of community brings me to one more form of healing that I want to invite us to consider today.
For in today’s gospel lesson there is another form of healing, one that we might easily overlook. The healing of the community itself. Remember at first in the gospel lesson, when Jesus and the crowd pass by Bartimaeus, and Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus for help, the people try to quiet him, to shush him. But then Jesus, we hear, stands still and calls for Bartimaeus to come to him. Suddenly, the crowd changes its tune, encouraging Bartimaeus to get up and go to Jesus. If anyone has ever been in a large stadium for a sports game, or a crowded street for a parade or protest event, you’ll know how wild and uncontrollable a crowd can feel around you. Re-directing an unruly crowd’s intent is no small thing to accomplish.
So, as Bartimaeus is called forth to be healed, the crowd around him is seemingly changed in their hearts, or “healed” as well. I wonder if any of the people around Jesus and Bartimaeus that day realized how significant this was.
Yes, redirecting an unruly crowd who has lost sight of their hearts and where they should put their good energy is no small feat. We saw this only too recently in the January 6th assault upon our nation’s capital, when waves upon waves of people with ill intent breached the inner sanctum and hub of our government in an attempt to derail and undo the democracy that we have worked so hard as a nation to build. It is a miracle that more people were not hurt or killed that day, and that we still have the ability as citizens on this day to continue to labor and work to build up a strong and healthy democracy that is built not on lies and gotcha moments, but on truth and facts and compassion and justice-seeking for all people.
The healing of the community – be it our family communities, our faith communities, or our civic communities, is also the purview of Christ – and just as the crowd invited Bartimaeus to come forward and meet Jesus for healing, we, too, can be instruments of invitation to those around us, influencing them in positive and healing ways.
Martin Luther King Jr, when he had been thrown into the Birmingham Jail, received a letter from a group of white clergy, telling him that he needed to lead his followers (the crowds) in a different way, quiet them down. And Martin Luther King Jr. writes back to them, as you might remember if you’ve read this letter (and if you haven’t read this letter, then please do yourself a favor and find a copy to read this week at the library or online); Martin Luther King Jr. wrote back to those white clergy from where he sat in prison, and explained that the greatest obstacle to moving forward to build equality for People of Color was not only the loud-mouthed and violent bigots, but those people who said “yes, yes, we agree with you, but we must move more slowly, we must not upset anyone along the way.”
I say to you, Martin Luther King Jr. may have been stuck in jail, but the ripples of Christ’s healing still flowed through his fingers and writing, and if it did not change the hearts of the pastors to which he was responding then, it certainly has changed and encouraged the minds and hearts of countless people since that time.
I suspect we all wish for healing – for ourselves and for others around us, and even for the nations around the world and the world itself. Although it may not always be in the ways we wish, with God’s help and the support of community, we may just be able to see where and how healing is possible this side of heaven, and live into that healing not only for ourselves, but also for the sake of others and for the sake of the world that needs communities not shushing those in need, but welcoming them into the presence of Jesus.