Road to Healing
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” ~ Ps. 51:7
He carried the bruised and beaten man on his donkey. It was an arduous and tiring trip. The sun beat down. The dry dust blew across the path. Step by step, donkey, Samaritan, and invalid sweat together through the desert. This is our story. We are the invalids. Christ is our physician, and the inn the Church. Our purpose in this story is simple: to be purged and made new.
II. “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead” (Lk. 10:30).
At the time of Christ, the road between the two cities was notorious for violence. It was a 15-mile stretch with rocks and caves just suited for marauding bandits. In the first century, Jews would have associated this road with danger in the same way that we might think of Harlem and Detroit. Jerusalem was no ordinary city. It was the city of God, and Jericho a place of worldliness. The metaphor is clear. This is a road we all know too well; a road we have all gone down. Whether it begins with a lustful glance, a thought of anger or indignation, or any other flirtatious temptation, we slip out of God’s grace and quickly find ourselves bruised. The rest is plain: how can we be healed?
III. “Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side” (Lk. 10:31).
The priest and Levite represent the wisdom of the world. Each had their place in history. They existed for a time, to prepare the world for Christ, but they never saved anyone. Apart from Christ, they were nothing. The same goes for everything in this world and our own attempts to save ourselves. From Sigmund Freud to Oprah Winfrey, there is no shortage of anecdotes about how to be a healthy, happy person. There are more psychologists and self-help books today than anytime in history, but the world is not getting better.
IV. The same applies us to us when we try to heal our selves.
The absolute worst mistake a Christian can make is to withdraw. When we try to be a Christian on our own, when we cut back from community, when we distance ourselves, then we are setting ourselves up for tragedy. As we will discuss, the man was hopeless on his own. He needed Christ’s healing touch. Even then, bathed and nursed by the Lord, he was sent to the inn. He was discharged from the hospital and checked in at rehab.
IV. “But a Samaritan while travelling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them” (Lk. 10:32-33).
At the age of five, Ashlyn Blocker was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease, CIPA. Otherwise normal and healthy, a genetic mutation made it impossible for her to feel pain. It sounds like a nice life, except pain exists for a reason. When you touch a stove, the nerves in your hand tell you to back off. In Ashlyn’s case, she could rest her hand on a stove and feel nothing till it was too late. Her hand would be scourged. In more ways than one, we all have a touch of spiritual CIPA. Our conscience becomes numb. Anger or pride become normal. We are lying on the road to Jericho and never even know it.
V. Jesus Christ is our healing. Yet, do we call out to him?
The Church Fathers insist that we pray slowly. St. John of Kronstadt writes: “It is necessary to pray slowly, waiting for a corresponding echo in the heart to each word of the prayer…keep to the rule that is better to say five words from the depth of your heart than ten thousand words with your tongue only.” St. Ignatius Brianchaninov urges: “prayer requires the inseparable presence and co-operation of the attention…Specially helpful in holding the attention during prayer is an extremely unhurried pronunciation of the words of the prayer. Pronounce the words without hurrying so that the mind may quite easily stay enclosed in the words of the prayer, and not slip away from a single word.” Why should we pray slowly? When we rush through our prayers, we never really lift up our heart to God. It is like lying on the road to Jericho without ever once calling out to the Samaritan.
When we rush through our prayers, they never have a chance to sink in.
I have prayed psalm 50 hundreds of times without really putting my heart into it. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Yet, when praying the verse slowly and deliberately, the words take life. It becomes a reality. They wake us up to our need for God. Christ’s first sermon was: “repent, for the kingdom of God is near,” because he knew our hearts. We are only half-living, and our Lord promises a life so much more joyful, rich and beautiful.
So our first task is to recognize that we are indeed that wounded soul in the desert. Then, Christ comes and heals.
VI. “Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.”” (Lk. 10:34-35).
Why does the Church tell us to go to confession? The recovering alcoholic gets it. He knows he will never stop drinking without accountability. Our spiritual addictions are easier to hide and we do not take them as seriously. This why the scriptures insist that we never forsake assembling together (Hb. 10:25), that we confess our sins to one another and go to our priests for prayer and forgiveness (Jm. 5:16, Jn. 20:23). Peter describes the devil “as a roaring lion [that] walketh about seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pt. 5:8). In some ways, the devil is more like a cat. Left alone to our self, isolated in our own private thoughts, the devil has a hay day. He tosses and tugs us like a cat playing with mice.
VII. Our shelter is the inn; our healing the Church. “The Church is the inn,” St. John Chrysostom says, “which in the journey of this world receives the weary and those that are overcome by the weight of their sins; where, casting aside the burden of sin, the wearied traveller may rest, and rested is restored with healthful food.” All salvation, all renewal, all healing occurs in Christian community.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Christ comes to us wherever we are. If we open ourselves to him, he will make us new.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.