Eucharistic Discipleship: Receiving Healing Part 1

I have been writing on the theme of eucharistic discipleship which requires full, conscious, and active participation in the Mass. That in turn requires that we enter in to receive instruction, enter in to receive healing, and enter in seeking union with God. So far I have written about receiving instruction in the Liturgy of the Word and preparing for that instruction through the traditional practice of ‘Lectio Divina’.  Now it is time to address perhaps what is perhaps most needed and desired, but must difficult to understand and achieve – entering in to receive healing.

St. Matthew characterizes Jesus’ public ministry with the following words: Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. (Mt 9:35) One striking feature of the Gospels is how the crowds come to Jesus bringing their sick to be healed. Even today, despite the marvels of modern medicine, if anyone presented themselves with a power to heal such as Jesus had, people would flock to him in great number. Jesus’ public ministry seems to have been characterized by both teaching and healing, but if the truth be told, people were more drawn by the healing than by the teaching.

St. John seems to have had this in mind when he comments: Many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs [miracles] he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well. (Jn 2:23-34)

This might also explain Jesus’ harsh words regarding Capernaum, which was the home base for his public ministry: As for you, Capernaum: Will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to the netherworld. For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you. (Mt 11:23-24)

Basically, the physical healings that Jesus performed during his earthly life were not done for their own sake, but in order to lead men to faith in himself, repentance, and a changed way of life. Yet many of those who were drawn to Jesus were looking for nothing beyond the physical healing. Anyone who had been healed in body, but whose soul remained unchanged, would actually end up in a worse state than he started. Jesus warned one man of this very danger: Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse will happens to you. (Jn 5:14) The something worse did not mean a worse illness, but a soul more darkened and enslaved by sin.

Jesus’ healing miracles were meant to lead men to faith in himself and they also spoke about symbolically about the meaning of the salvation he came to bring: Jesus came to make man whole again, but the wholeness really begins in the soul and is only completed in the body on the day of the resurrection. Jesus’ healing miracles were signs of the future resurrection.

Still, we must not reduce Jesus’ healing ministry to miracles of physical healing. We can understand his healing work better if we consider all the wounds that befell our nature on account of Adam’s sin.

First, Adam’s sin separated man from God, it darkened the human mind, left the will inclined to egoism, left us weak and wavering in the face of adversity and difficulty, inclined rather to seek pleasure and comfort in material things. Body and soul are no longer inclined to work together in the pursuit of holiness, justice, and truth. These wounds within individual souls resulted in all manner of conflict in human social relations, which have become marked by abuse of power, manipulation, and deceit. These conflicts in turn produce all manner of emotional wounds in individuals. The interior disorder of the human soul has led also to an often conflicted relation with the world of physical creation. Instead of serving as stewards of God’s creation, human beings have often sought to manipulate and exploit the physical world in the service of egoistic ambitions. Finally, on top of everything else is the wound of bodily death.

The forgiveness of sins that Jesus brought through his death and resurrection and which is communicated to us above all in the sacraments of baptism and reconciliation, overcome our fundamental alienation from God and integrate us into the community of salvation, the Church, but the other wounds remain and often hold us back from following the way of Jesus Christ.

Sometimes the wounds are so bad that a person needs some major healing before he is even able to embrace faith in Jesus Christ; other times, a person believes, but major healing is needed in order to follow Christ; finally, those who do actively follow Christ as his disciples find continued healing through the very practice of faith and the life of virtue.

In the weeks to come I will write about the hope of final healing in the resurrection of the body; the healing that takes place through the forgiveness of sins; the healing that takes place through the practice of faith and the life of virtue; and finally the sort of healing that often needs to take place so that a person is able to embrace the faith and follow Christ.

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Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.