TURNING TO THE LORD IN TIME OF TROUBLE
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time(B)
12 February 2012
Turning to, or drawing near seems to be a good image to start with in today’s reflection. We turn to anyone who can help us when we are in dire straits. We draw near to someone who can take away whatever pain it is we are bearing. We turn to creditors who can save the day for us when our coffers are empty. We turn our gaze to those who have the power to lift us out of any unpleasant or painful predicament.
I used to sort of “enjoy” being sick when I was a kid … for one simple reason. My paternal grandmother would go out of her way to nurse me back to health. She did nothing much. She gave me nothing extraordinary. But I turned to her when sick with fever for she always had an extra dose of tender loving care for anyone of us kids who was sick, complete with a gentle back rub and a caring massage, way, way before spas became the craze all over.
The first reading from the book of Exodus lays the basis for the good news that will unfold in the Gospel passage. But that basis has to do with drawing near, and turning to the priest Aaron, who at that time, could do nothing more than offer some kind of an “early warning device” to inform everyone that one was sick, or, in the words of the Old Testament, “unclean.”
The Gospel passage goes beyond the issue of giving advanced warning to others. It offers a solution. It gives a cure. And it advances a cure that goes beyond the initial, shallow, diagnosis. But more than just the cure, the Gospel shows us that that cure comes from no less than the Divine Healer Himself, who now shows Himself to be the fulfillment of what was hinted to, or prefigured, by Aaron, the priest.
As a therapist, I deal with a steady stream of persons, young and old, who come to me asking for help, telling me of their so-called “presenting problems.” Whether or not what they initially present is the real, “identified problem,” the bottom line for all is the same. They all come with hurts, with issues, with concerns that are actually akin to those who come with warts, wounds, and welts on the physical plane.
They turn to someone for help, in this case, me. Like the “lepers” of old, they seek resolution of whatever “uncleanness” they suffer from. Like the leper in today’s gospel passage, they draw near to someone who could offer some light on how, and where to find solace from all their “sweat and care and cumber; sorrows passing number.”
But the analogy between me and the Divine Healer ends right here. I cannot cure. Psychologically speaking, it is not us therapists who do the healing, but our clients. We can only guide them. We can only give them signposts, but they are really the ones who are in control, all the time. And they really are the ones who need to find deep in their storehouse of resources whatever they need to get better and find wholeness once again, in their own good time, at their own pace.
But the Divine Healer does infinitely more. He prescribes the cure. He is the cure. He is the method and the means. He is both the source and the intermediary of the gift of healing, wholeness, health, and total well-being of the person, sick not only in body, but more so in soul. He is the channel and the cure at one and the same time.
I have it on the authority of Neo-Freudians, particularly Object Relations psychologists, that the root of our psychological discomfort has to do with deficiencies and defects in our “relationships” early on in our childhood. It is not so much being stuck, as Freud taught, or an overfocus on one of three erogenous zones, as the lack of meaningful persons to relate to, to turn to, to draw near to, and feel ourselves “mirrored” by them, validated, and affirmed for who, and what we are.
I would like to think that the good news in today’s readings precisely shows “healing” to be not primarily coming from a material cure, but coming from the Healer Himself. It comes from a relationship. It comes from being attuned and attached to the Lord. And this is the wisdom behind our response to the first reading: “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.”
When I was sick as a boy, it was not so much what my grandma gave me. They were really nothing but crackers and orange drinks, and tasteless congee. But what mattered most was the healing touch, the gentle back rubs, the soothing massages, that told me I had someone to “turn to” … to “draw near” to, and to feel at home with.
What “cured” me was the relationship, the love, the meaningful attachment and attunement to someone who loved me unconditionally.
It was not the medicine, but the medium. Neither was it the means, but the method, not so much the cure, as the channel. And everything had to do with having one to turn to, to draw near to, and to come home to.
The good news that shines out for us all is this. We do have “object permanence,” to use a technical term, in the person of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. He is ever here for us. He is not just Lord, but Savior … personal, relational, real, lasting, and perduring.
To Him we turn now … whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do … To Him we turn, for our country is now in far worse shape than the leper of both the first and third readings. We are once again, the object of interest of the whole world. We seem unable to get our act together. We seem to be always starting from square one all the time. And like unclean lepers of old, we tell the whole world, figuratively, to steer clear of us, and not take us very seriously, as we go on dealing with a myriad of tragedies, many of which are man-made, self-inflicted, and self-generated.
I ask my readers to turn to the Lord once again. I ask you all to help me draw near to Him in trust once more, and go on believing that He, the Divine Healer, is ultimately our salvation.
As a nation, as we grapple with myriad problems that are politically generated, we turn you, O Lord, in time of trouble, and you will fill us with the joy of salvation! Amen.