Healing the Brokenhearted-A Day in the Life: Rev. Judy’s Homily Fifth Sunday in OT
Healing the Brokenhearted-A Day in the Life: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time Feb. 8, 2015
On this Sunday we will walk a while with Job ( Job 7: 1-4,6-7) and then with the Apostle Paul ( I Cor. 9:6-19,22-23) and finally with Jesus (Mark 1: 29-39). This is not going to be an easy walk. The Psalmist pulls it together in saying “God heals the brokenhearted” (Ps 147:3). Let us enter the territory of the brokenhearted and find God there.
I have a dear friend from childhood who recently lost her mother whom she cared for over many years after both of their lives changed and they decided to live together. They were also companions and best friends. My friend wrote to me: “I know that she is better off now with God and out of her suffering but I am brokenhearted”. I understood deeply.
As a pastor and as a person I am no stranger to loss and broken hearts. My own losses are many and my heart has been pieced back together time after time. I understand Job. I understand his depression yet it is very hard to tolerate the depth of it. Like a true depressive Job says: “I will never experience joy again”(Job 7:7). One’s heart can break for Job and for all the “Jobs” we encounter who struggle between despair and being lifted out of it with a modicum of faith. Job is an example of deep and remarkable faith in the midst of so much objective suffering that he cannot be blamed for his despair. Neither can clinically depressed people be blamed for not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But it is sure hard to be with them, their utter sadness and gloom can bring anyone down. Broken hearts may be mended and healed and yet those who cannot see any light tend to have the hardest time healing. They need the hand up that Jesus offered to Peter’s mother-in-law in the Gospel (Mark 1: 31). Several years ago I counseled a young man whose fiancé broke the engagement. “I cannot go on”, he said, “my heart is broken”. Because he was also clinically depressed it took many years before he could move on. Eventually he did find a new love and he has made a good marriage. He has experienced joy again.
Recently, I counseled Kathy, a woman of great faith who experienced major successive losses: of a husband to infidelity, divorce, then death; of her son to drug addiction; of a daughter and her young family to distant deployment in the Armed Forces; of her home to great loss of income; and her health to a crippling illness. Yet,like and unlike Job, she remained steadfast in her faith without wavering. She told me that she had to hold onto her faith or she would “just crash”. She spent her time while waiting for affordable housing volunteering her time with those in need. In the picture introducing this article, Kathy is joined by Gini and another friend at Good Shepherd church. Gini was brokenhearted at the loss of her beloved husband Paul who was a great supporter of our ministry. With his advancing cancer Paul would give Gini a donation for us each time she volunteered to cook and serve for our ministry to the homeless and hungry. She continued this when Paul passed, putting her sadness to work for the kin(g)dom. When we spoke to Gini or Kathy each would always be thankful to God for God’s goodness in the midst of her troubles.
Several months later, Kathy was able to get a new place to live and her spirits were lifted. She created a beautiful home where all neighbors are welcome.
While she still cried volumes sometimes she did keep her faith and did not “crash” as she kept on serving others. She was able to adopt a little dog to ease her loneliness. She loved him very much and her tears abated. Then, in the middle of a night I got a call and could not tell who it was as the person calling was crying so much. Finally she was able to tell me that the dog got out the front door, left ajar for a bit of air, and ran away. “I am brokenhearted” she cried. We talked it through and by the morning the dog had returned-for her joy did come in the morning. We want this to end happily ever after with this good woman and the little dog but later on he bit her badly twice and had to go back to the Rescue Shelter. (Thankfully for the dog who had more energy than this woman could manage, it is a no-kill shelter and he may get another chance). She again told me as she so reluctantly and tearfully had to let him go “I am brokenhearted”. Yet, she increased her volunteer work including reaching out to others in our community of brokenhearted and sometimes broken people as she waits to find an “easier” pet for her daily companion. We talk often as she copes with our people whose mental and physical states are often beyond understanding. I am sure that the right companion dog will be found soon, but her joy at what she has instead of what she does not have is uplifting to me and to all around her. Her house is now a hub of her community where many are hurting.
For her, faith in God and in Jesus the Christ is the center of her life. Like Paul, she has to preach using more actions than words, and she tries to be “all things to all people” learning all she can about their illnesses and their needs. It does not matter to her that some have a history of prison or jail time and it does not matter that her own life is still not in “perfect shape”. Kathy is trying to live the gospel. She wants to offer a hand up to the ill and downtrodden as Jesus did.
When we go through a day in Jesus’ life we see Jesus in relationship with his disciples visiting Peter’s home and taking Peter’s mother-in-law by the hand to lift her from her sick bed. People easily died of fever in those days and so his healing is saving her life. She is so well after his touch that she serves a meal for the group. An original Jewish mother some might say. But by now news of his healing of both the mentally and physically ill has reached the whole village and everyone appears at the door. So he heals them, no matter who they were or what they had, one after the other. Then he tries to rest and makes time to pray rising early. Once again everyone continues to seek him out. Exhausted as he must be, he then moves on to the next village because he must proclaim the good news. He goes throughout the Galilee preaching and healing the broken and the brokenhearted-he gives himself away.
When life makes us feel like Job, may we have the love and compassion of Jesus to keep on going and to give ourselves away so the broken and the brokenhearted are healed to build the reign of God with us.