Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Virtue As Power To Heal

Feast of Bishop Thomas Ken
Fr. Dale Matson

Perhaps the primary characteristic of Bishop Ken was his principled and virtuous life. It gained him respect even from those who disagreed with him. The Gospel reading for his feast day is in the context of the Christ’s sermon on the plain. In this portion of the Gospel reading for the feast day of Bishop Thomas Ken, we hear the following from St. Luke.
“And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, [This is the Sermon on the Plain which can be compared with the Sermon on the Mount from St. Matthew’s Gospel]. and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; and they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed.” (Luke 6:17-18)
I think there is an attitude today that in times past, illness and disease were thought to be from unclean spirits. Notice how the physician, St. Luke, makes a distinction between illness, disease and demon possession. “And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.” (Verse 19) Notice here, in the KJV, where Luke uses the term “Virtue” and not some mysterious force or power. This is the same phrase used in the Gospel of Mark.
“And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, who touched my clothes? (Mark 25-30)
The light of Christ is virtue. With faith as our prism, we are able to see the many aspects of virtue as we see many colors when sunlight passes through a prism. The theological virtues are faith, hope and love and the cardinal virtues are justice, temperance, fortitude and prudence.
As I was finishing reading and putting these two passages into this homily, my wife Sharon called me to say that a hummingbird had flown into our window. I went outside to see it flopping on the concrete deck as if its wing, neck or back was broken; I picked it up and sat down with it in the palm of my hand. I had my glasses on and could even see eye lashes on the bird’s tiny eyes. There was what looked like a thin string, half the diameter of dental floss, protruding from its long beak. I touched it and the bird pulled what I then realized was its tongue into its mouth.
I thought about the passages I had just been reading about the touch of Jesus. I began stroking the bird and we prayed over it. As we prayed I imagined the virtue of our Lord flowing into the bird. Sharon took a picture of it in my hand with her phone camera. This is actually not the first time I had put an injured hummingbird in my hand and prayed over it. The same thing happened about five years ago. On both occasions, the bird seemed to need just a few minutes in a caring hand. The virtue of Christ healed today as it did in our Gospel lesson from Luke. On each occasion, the birds flew away as if nothing had happened. Glory to God, Who even cares about sparrows and hummingbirds. How fitting that God would bolster our smaller than a mustard seed faith as it was applied to one of the smallest of His creatures.
            “Aren't two sparrows sold for only a penny? But your Father knows when any one of them falls to the ground.” (Matthew 10:29, CEV) 

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