One of the things that I miss about my first Parish in Minyip, a rural country town in the Wimmera, is going out at night and just looking up at the night sky. Away from the city lights you could see so much more than in metro areas. If you looked long enough you would see a satellite making its way across the expanse. If you stared long enough into the deep darkness you could make out the Milky Way. So incredible that it is awe inspiring and as a Christian there is something else that I can’t really explain that gives me a sense of closeness to God. As I read the Isaiah passage today I get a sense of that is what Isaiah is also experiencing: The awesomeness of God’s creation – Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in; Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.
I wonder why more people don’t look at creation and discover a Creator God who is responsible for not just our world but the expanse of the universe that we have only touched on the fringe of and discovering new galaxies in the growing expanse. I wonder if the reason is because of what we see in our Gospel reading this morning. After Jesus left the Synagogue they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered around the door. And he cured many who were sick with various diseases. In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.”
How much does human suffering play into people’s rejection of Jesus Christ? How often don’t we hear people ask – if there is a loving God, why does he allow people to suffer. Is God really all that amazing and powerful if he cannot rid the world of suffering and starvation and all the other things that cause us to doubt his existence. And when we are confronted with that question it can be hard to answer and may even cause doubts in our own minds especially if we are the ones experiencing suffering. Suffering is a part of human existence that cannot be avoided. And even if we used suffering to reject the existence of God it does not solve the problem of suffering. In fact it makes it worse. The reason that it makes it worse is because it means that if there is no God then this life is all we are given. And if we are born into suffering then there is nothing to look forward to. And even if we suffer late in life we don’t look back and think, “well at least I didn’t suffer in my early years”. No, we suffer at the time and gauge our entire life on that present suffering. But as we see in our Gospel reading, Jesus gives the people hope for their suffering through healing them. But that’s not why Jesus came.
His mission was not to heal everyone here otherwise he would have to had lived on forever here and not died so he could continue to heal future generations. And so when his disciples come looking for him because the numbers were just growing and growing, he said: “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” He didn’t say, let us go to the neighbouring towns so I may heal them also. No, he came to proclaim a message; a message that God has come to bring us to our new and true home in heaven. So he proclaimed – the Kingdom of heaven is near; and in that Kingdom of Heaven is where everyone will receive full and final healing where our old and decaying bodies will be raised and renewed. So if we reject God because of the suffering then we also reject the comfort for our suffering that only God can offer.
And that’s why St Paul says to the Romans in the midst of their suffering because of their faith in Jesus – I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Jesus could easily have used his entire 3 years of ministry healing the sick and still not completed his task, and even if we were healed every time we prayed, eventually we would have to face the reality of death. His task was to restore the relationship of the people to God so we could have everlasting hope and not just hope for the immediate situation. He may have healed someone but with no guarantee that they wouldn’t experience suffering the following day and certainly in the future their death; but by restoring their relationship with God he gave them that hope for eternity. So part of his teaching them included modelling a relationship with God through prayer.
Prayer is communicating with God which gives us strength and hope especially in times of suffering. In the midst of his huge workload of healing he stops and goes off to pray to his Father. We too can help people to see that through prayer we can experience hope for the future even if our present seems hopeless. Until we reach our final destination in heaven we come to Jesus in prayer. Sometimes in his wisdom God will grant the healing we pray for in this lifetime and I’ve met many as you may have that proclaim that they have had miraculous healing. Maybe you’ve experienced the miracle of healing yourself; but so many people live with their suffering which is not a sign that God loves them any less. God’s full expression of his love for everyone comes on the cross when Jesus gives up his life so we can be sure our sins are paid for and our eternal life is secure; and that is the greatest healing and greatest mystery: That the one who created the heavens and the earth – who put all the planets and galaxies and stars in space, is concerned for us even though we disobeyed him.
Enough that he would send his own Son to suffer a cruel and excruciating death – for us. Jesus suffered and died so our suffering and death would be limited to this lifetime only. Until the age to come where we will experience full healing and eternal life Jesus promises in your Baptism, “ I am with you always till the end of the age”