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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Wilt Thou Be Made Whole?

Early in the Savior’s ministry, after passing through Samaria to Galilee, he came upon the pool of Bethesda. This famed pool was rumored to heal the first person who stepped in “after the water was troubled.” There was a multitude of people watching and waiting for their opportunity to be the first inside the troubled water. Among them was “a certain man…which had been an infirmity thirty an eight years.” When Jesus saw him in his pitiable condition, knowing of the long wait that this man had been waiting, he approached, and asked a simple question: “Wilt thou be made whole?”

The question is simple. The implications are great. The question is not, “can I make you whole?” or “do you have the faith to be made whole?” it was all on this invalid to decide whether or not he should be made whole. In this story, we find a powerful teaching of Jesus: I can do anything you can imagine. Will you let me do it?

When we are in the repentance process, we can oftentimes find ourselves as Paul wrote, “with Godly sorrow.” We feel guilt and remorse for the things that we have done. The Prophet Alma wrote his feelings when in the midst of the repentance process:

“I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.”

“And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.”

What vivid imagery! Alma is truly in the depths of despair, wishing that “Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds [!]” Literally afraid of God, who demands justice, Alma wished that he would cease to exist, never to think or act, and never to have to account to his Creator.

Haven’t we all felt this way? Feeling ashamed of the things that we have done? Perhaps not to the point that we wish that we would “become extinct,” but that we would never have to account to our Father in Heaven for the things that we have done. I know that I have. I somehow forget that through believing the Savior’s invitation to “come unto me, all ye that…are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Because of pride, and being ashamed of my acts, I will procrastinate coming to the Savior. I somehow put my worries of what others will think, or what my Father in Heaven will think as I come to Him in prayer. These thoughts, though not rational, nor in harmony with what we know to be true, are oftentimes what we turn to when faced with the decision to face our consequences and the need to change our charted course.

It’s in these times of intense introspection that we must remember that “God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” I think that we often focus so much on the need for justice in the repentance process that we forget that it is all a part of a Plan of Mercy!

I’ve seen by sad experience that we can believe that because Jesus is perfect, we can never be perfect. We see Him as this lofty goal that we aspire to…but that we can never reach. We also don’t want to be around those that we see emulating His teachings and Gospel, because we feel that we don’t measure up to their faith or works. We stop reading our scriptures, attending church, and even avoiding those that we love, and are close to.
In times such as these, we must remember that it is promised in the Doctrine and Covenants, “[His] angels [are] round about you, to bear you up.” He has sent those around you to bless you life, whether it be in the form of friends, family, bishops, stake presidents, home teachers, and the rest of the fellow Saints around you. Those that can show the love of the Savior are not limited to Latter-day Saints, but to all those that show His love through their concern and love for each of us in our moments of despair. This is a wonderful promise from the Savior, that “[He] will not leave you comfortless, He will come to you.”

Another wonderful promise of the Savior is that of the baptismal covenant, to all those who “are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in.” To all those that take upon themselves these promises and covenants, the full blessings of the Atonement of Christ are made available to them. Not to say that those who have not yet been baptized cannot access the Atonement, that is simply not true. But it is that through making the covenant to take upon yourself the Savior’s name, that there is a partnership between you and Jesus, a partnership to get you to return to Him and His Father in the Celestial Kingdom of God. You promise to be His witness, to do what He would do, say what He would say, and serve as He would serve. You promise to trust Him and His promises, make changes when you go off the safety of the Gospel path, and renew your baptismal covenants through partaking of the Sacrament. He promises you the companionship of the Holy Spirit, and that if you prove faithful in your promises to the end; He will give you Eternal Life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God. This is beautifully outlined in Alma 7:11-16:

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
14 Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.
15 Yea, I say unto you come and fear not, and lay aside every sin, which easily doth beset you, which doth bind you down to destruction, yea, come and go forth, and show unto your God that ye are willing to repent of your sins and enter into a covenant with him to keep his commandments, and witness it unto him this day by going into the waters of baptism.
16 And whosoever doeth this, and keepeth the commandments of God from thenceforth, the same will remember that I say unto him, yea, he will remember that I have said unto him, he shall have eternal life, according to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, which testifieth in me.

This brings us back to the Master’s question to the invalid: “Wilt thou be made whole?” Will we come to Him, and use His glorious Atonement in our own lives? Will we accept His hand when it is offered? And will we “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men?” That is what we need to be made whole, to have faith, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and then keep His commandments until the end. All in all, the answer to the question “wilt thou be made whole?” is the question, “will you go to the Master Healer?”

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