Eucharistic Discipleship: Receiving Healing Part 5

On the theme of healing I have written about the final healing that comes with the resurrection of the dead and the healing that comes from the sacraments of healing, penance and anointing of the sick, which heal the guilt of sin and the deep wounds of sin. There is another sort of healing we need that comes through the practice of virtue, which leads to the establishment of solid habits of virtue. “Virtue”, however, is a forgotten word our contemporary culture. What is it?

Actually, virtue is nothing less than the perfection of our humanity. The truly virtuous person lives a fully human life. The practice of virtue means doing those things that develop the character traits that bring our humanity to perfection. But again we are left with a question: what does it mean to live a fully human life? What is the true fulfillment of human potential?

Our human nature is brought to fulfillment in a life governed by reason, or if that seems to cold, by rational love, transformed by grace, and united to God.  Human reason is our capacity to perceive reality as it is. A truly rational life is a life that is conformed to reality and the supreme reality is God.

Consider that mental illness – whether the mentally ill person is at fault for his condition or not – involves some form of disconnect with reality. This disconnect often involves some form of emotional disorder. Nevertheless, our society today tends to idolize emotion and feeling. If, however, we are honest, the person who lets himself be ruled by emotions misperceives reality or perceives reality in a distorted fashion.

Emotion can indeed tell us something about reality. Anger, for example, is an emotional reaction to something perceived as wrong; it is a sign that things are not as they should be. Only the mind, however, can judge whether the disorder is real or only perceived, whether it is important or not, and what, if anything, should be done about it.

Emotional love reveals an attraction to some person or some thing, but only the mind can judge if it is appropriate, now or ever, to pursue that attraction, and by what means it would be best to pursue or turn away from the attraction.

The mind, however, will be incapable of judging rightly about these things unless it has some vision of the whole of reality. The great danger here lies is a person buying into a partial, truncated, worldview.

Indeed, certain partial worldviews have left us with the image of reason itself as a cold and calculating things.

For example the economic view of reality reduces all human life merely to making a living. This turns reason into nothing more than a tool in the service of economic prosperity.

The scientific worldview – which is not science itself but the ideology that proposes science as the supreme arbiter of what is real – reduces all reality to material things and is blind to the reality of God. This worldview leaves men to pursue goals within a physical world that can be manipulated by human beings, but lacks intrinsic meaning and value. In the last analysis that would mean that there is no real right or wrong.

Faith, however, reveals the world as it is, a dangerous and risky place, a proving ground of love, a pilgrim path to eternal life. The stakes couldn’t be higher – heaven or hell. Only the one who is willing to give everything for the love of God is guaranteed success.

The practice of virtue, then, guided by the light of faith, hears the words of Jesus and, guided by the Holy Spirit, puts them into practice; virtue stakes everything on Jesus’ word. (cf. Mt 7:24-27) This practice of virtue brings healing by freeing the soul from the distortions of emotional disorder and the limitations of partial worldviews, this brings the soul ever more into conformity with the order of the highest reality.

Curiously, however, the most dangerous disease of all, the spirit of pride and self-reliance, lies hidden along the path of virtue. For that reason God will often leave a soul that sincerely desires to draw near him struggling with her own weakness, in a state of seeming continual warfare, falling into sin, and rising again, because the humiliation of that struggle inculcates the foundational virtue of humility, which is the medicine for pride. Humility grounds a person in the truth of who he is in himself (nothing), in relation to others (a servant), and in relation to God (a creature in total dependence on his creator, a rebellious sinner who has been redeemed and is called to become a beloved son or daughter in Jesus Christ). The Lord revealed to St. Paul, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor 12:9)

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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.

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