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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories ~ Spirituality: Holiness, Wholeness and Healing

This weekend we hear two stories of healing...and more. The first story tells of healing the leprosy of a Syrian general, Naaman, by the prophet Elisha (2 Kgs 5:14-17). The second story relates how Jesus heals ten lepers, one of whom is a Samaritan not a Jew (Lk 17:11-19). Leprosy was an isolating disease. It made a person an outcast from the community who stood back in fear of it.

For the person who struggled with the affliction it left them with a humanity that was wounded and broken, physically, but also emotionally and socially. They were broken in body, but perhaps more significantly in spirit and in heart. Their relationships with family, friends and community were also wounded. In our own times leprosy is sometimes seen as an image for the isolation and brokenness that is often part of the human experience. Someone who is excluded is sometimes referred as “being treated as a leper.”

The healing that the prophet Elisha gave to the Syrian, Naaman and that Jesus offered to the ten lepers was more than a healing of the body. It was a healing of the spirit and heart. It returned the broken ones to the fullness of community. In the case of the ten lepers in the Gospel, they were to go the priests who would certify that they were healed and eligible to return to the community. In the story from the Book of Kings, Naaman, a Gentile had a spiritual relationship brought forward in his life as he turned to the God of Israel.

We all yearn for the wholeness in life that the lepers experienced in their healing. Who is without wounds, whether physical, emotional or social? Who does not long for the closeness of relationship that brings inclusion, care and expression of love? The story of Naaman and the ten lepers is the story of every human being. We may not have the disease of leprosy, but our lives are marked by a leprosy of spirit in many ways. At the same time, we are also marked by the healing that we see in these two accounts. We long for the wholeness that comes from this healing. We can call this wholeness holiness.

Holiness is sometimes confused with what we might call religiosity. Holiness is not following the rules of the church. Nor is holiness to be regarded as a spirituality that is so personal that it can be lived alone, taking no other persons into account.

Holiness is actually the wholeness for which we all long. It is the gift of vitality and meaning that helps us to make sense out of our lives. Holiness draws us into a healthy and lively relationship with a God who loves and cares about us. It also draws us into healthy and life-giving relationships with others. Holiness is fullest when lived within a community with whom we can share our experience. Holiness flows from a sense of the spirit, a spirituality that is lived in the midst of our ordinary lives and shared with a community of others on the same journey of life.

In holiness, we discover the full meaning of the Incarnation – God so loves us, that he lives among us. God is part of us in an way that we can begin to understand that our life has meaning. It offers us the gift of hope, based on love that allows us to have faith and trust in our life-journey.

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