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Saturday after Ash Wednesday

March 4, 2006

Blessed St. Casimir’s Day! (look for his story in the “Saints of Lent” category)

Readings:
Isaiah 58:9-14 (obeying God’s law brings new hope)
Psalm 86:1-6 “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may be faithful in your sight”
+Luke 5:27-32 (Jesus came for sinners)

Jesus said to them, “The healthy do not need a doctor; sick people do. I have not come to invite the self-righteous to a change of heart, but sinners.”

Sick people need a doctor. Self-evident, right? On the physical level, maybe. If somebody breaks an arm and then drags around for weeks without bothering to get it set, or even defending his right to a broken arm, sooner or later people will get fed up with it. Even if he doesn’t complain (which is unlikely), he won’t be able to carry out his normal responsibilities, and other people will have to take care of things for him. Their natural sympathy will eventually wear thin and they’ll start putting pressure on him to go to a doctor to get the arm taken care of.

But when it comes to spiritual sickness we use an entirely different standard. We may try to re-define it as normalcy, ignore it altogether, defend it as a right, explain it away, or claim that because it’s a sickness, the person can’t possibly be held responsible for it. The concept that it might be curable, or that the responsible reaction to spiritual sickness would be to go to a spiritual doctor, doesn’t even occur to us. And yet, over two thousand years ago, Jesus clearly told us that sin is a spiritual sickness, one that He came to cure. His beloved apostle goes on to assure us that “If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:18).

So here we are, each to one degree or another spiritually sick. And, like physical sickness, sometimes we’re not even aware that we’re sick. A routine checkup may detect cancer or high blood pressure that could disable or kill us just as effectively, whether we knew it was there or not. If we try to ignore, defend or explain away our sickness, it’s only going to get worse.

Isaiah gives us list of symptoms to watch for, passes on “doctor’s orders”, and gives us a taste of just what we have to look forward to as our spiritual health improves. If we get rid of oppression, false accusation and malicious speech, feed the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, then our gloom will turn to brightness, we will have plenty even in desert conditions, and families that have fallen into ruin will be restored. If we keep the Sabbath as God’s day, holy and restful, then we will find joy in Him.

May we experience the joy of the health the Great Physician came to give us.

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