There is a true story of Linda Banks which I will summarise and adapt due to time constraints and for our needs for this homily. Linda says, “The reality of life is never always easy. You are stressed over money and the many demands of life drained me physically and emotionally and made it hard to sustain a marriage. My husband was no longer the man I thought I married. He told me he didn’t love me anymore and we became abusive, with fighting arguments that pushed me into my own private hell. I had a mental breakdown.
My childhood had set me up for accepting the role of the unloved, fearful, insecure woman. For twenty-nine years I thought no one loved me. I had heard about Jesus at church and wanted to believe that He loved me, but I would have to see and feel Him before I could know. My family life crumbled, nightmares and waves of terror washed over us all . . . I locked and bound in spiritual darkness . . .
For the next ten years I saw psychiatrists, mental health counsellors and health practitioners. I had thirty-some shock treatments and obedient to my physicians, I swallowed a wide range of tranquilizers and sedatives that depleted my system and nearly killed me. Massive doses of prescribed drugs caused addiction and severe allergies to all medications. I was full of poison. I felt dead. My body shut down. My doctors said I was dying.
Thankfully, I decided to start selling Avon beauty care products in spite of my difficulties. I knew I wouldn’t make much money, but I was desperate to see ordinary people. Little did I know what would happen when I knocked on one particular door. A very ordinary looking woman, holding a baby, opened the door and invited me in. However, in her kitchen, surrounded by several children, she showed me extra-ordinary kindness and patience. She spoke extra-ordinary words.
There was a light in this woman that began breaking through the darkness in me, although I did not yet comprehend it. On the outside everything appeared the same, but a miracle was in progress –a miracle that would transform my life, taking me from darkness to light. My prayers were beginning to be answered. “How can you be so patient with all this commotion?” I asked the young mother as her children was creating such a commotion. She paused for a moment, then she asked me, “Do you believe in a God?” I said, “Yes, I do.”
“When you go home,” she said, “just get alone with God and ask Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit.” When I reached home, I did just that. I went to my bedroom; lay on my bed and said out loud, “God, will You fill me with Your spirit and heal me? I don’t know what any of this means and if it’s stupid, forget it! That was it. I just said that to God.
I then thought of Mary, a woman from my church that I’d wanted to get acquainted with, and decided to phone her. To my surprise, since everything was going wrong, she answered the phone. I asked if she had some time . . . and that I could visit her as I needed some prayers.
She said, “Yes, I have time.Please do come over.” When I met Mary, I told her that I needed prayers because I was hurting very much, she said, “Sure, I too had cancer and was healed through prayers.” I sat on a chair and closed my eyes. Mary then put her hands over my head and prayed silently for the Holy Spirit to heal me. And as I closed my eyes, I soon saw the most brilliant, glorious light I had ever seen appeared . . . I knew it was God. I felt His goodness, His peace, His kindness, His love. The light began to expose the darkness in my heart, the garbage and the slime. It was as though I knew that light, but that God could not live inside me unless the darkness in my heart was gone. I did not want to tell anyone what was there - my hurts, my pain, my rage. . . I knew I had to let all these go if I wanted the Light to stay.
Then, all of a sudden, I broke loose. I cried until there were no more words and no more tears. My face and clothes were dripping wet. I opened my eyes and Mary handed me a box of tissues and I wiped my face and neck. “Feel better?” she asked. I nodded. “You need to pray”, Mary explained. I drove home. I had no words to describe what was happening . . . I felt better - light and free.
That evening, when I lay on my bed, I had a vision. I saw myself as a very small person standing in front of the great and mighty God. I was again, for just a moment, the pitiful little girl in rags, with hair smelling of kerosene, looking up to find God’s love. With a sob, I whispered, “My dear God, You really do love me?” “Yes, I do!” God replied with a smile that still fills my life with Light and Love.
First God washed away my guilt and shame. Then He promised to be with me as I went through drug withdrawal to live without drugs or psychiatrists. God became the director of my life . . . and I was never the same again.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Gospel that was just proclaimed, when Jesus cured the great crowd of sick, they like Linda were not only cured physically. More importantly, they were restored and reconciled in their relationship with God and they experienced, like Linda, God’s goodness, kindness, peace and love. Those who are healed experiences the gift of salvation - the desire to live for God in this world and for all eternity. So, when God cares, when God heals, God also saves.
However, notice that God’s miracle of transforming Linda’s life came about only after she was able to go beyond her pain and pride and when she began to respond to the people that God sent her – first, the simple and very ordinary woman who showed her extra-ordinary kindness and patience; second, she acted on her inspiration to phone Mary, one of her parishioner whom she had wanted to know, to pray over her for the healing she admitted she needed. God then, was able to heal her through Mary.
If we are going through pain and deep hurts in life, then we too must learn, like Linda, to let go and “let the Light of the Holy Spirit to burn the garbage and slime of our hearts and soothe the hurts, the pain and the rage that is consuming us. The basic truth of today’s Gospel is that God really cares . . . He really wants to heal us from the bondage of our pain, hurts and sins . . . He truly wants to save us and lead us to eternal life . . .
What is our response?
Fr Philip Heng,S.J.
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