Christ is the healer, writes Mgr Michael Buckley in the first of a three part series on our restoration
HEALING or making a person 'whole' is of the essence of the Christian Gospel and mission. We either heal or hurt our world by the way in which we live our lives.
To be a Christian is to be a healer. Christians cannot be neutral or pass by on the other side of their wounded neighbour. Christ's ministry to the sick is carried out today in the world which is a vast hospital, and he uses us as his helpers.
What exactly is meant by Christian healing? The word "healing" itself has been sadly abused by malpractices, and is often confused with superstition and faith healing.
Christian healing affects the whole human personality, body, emotions, spirit and soul. Catholics as a rule place it in an isolated spiritual context, and therefore confine it exclusively to the sacraments whose ordinary ministers are the clergy. Healing remains for them a hierarchical function and privilege. Physical healing is confined to special places of healing approved by the hierarchy, such as Lourdes or Fatima. The Catholic Church has good reason to be wary of 'healers' or 'healing' shrines.
Evangelical Protestants on the other hand — and this is a wide generalization — are so wrapped up in physical healing that they tend to ingore its deeper spiritual significance. They perpetually seek signs and miracles as confirmation of their Christian belief.
Last year a friend of mine who was a well-known evangelist made it known on the media that he was suffering from terminal cancer. Thousands prayed for his physical recovery, and even used him as a 'test case'. Surely God would not let such a successful evangelist die! Many of them were shattered by his death mainly because they did not understand the true meaning of healing, or the mystery of God's plan in suffering.
It is right that in today's diseased world the whole question of Christian healing should be raised. What exactly does Christ mean by healing when he promised his followers: "Whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works" John 14:12?
Does it mean that if I really believe in his power to heal then he protects me from every form of physical, emotional, and spiritual form of disease? If after prayers for my 'healing', 1 still remain ill is this due to my lack of faith in the power of Jesus to heal me?
To understand Christian healing is to understand the Gospel message and purpose of Christ's mission. Put very simply, it is this. God created us whole (healthy) when he made us in his own image and likeness, Genesis 1:26. Christ was intended by God our Father to be the crowning point of creation in which our capacity for union with God was to be realised, Galatians4:4. In Christ we are 'stamped with the seal of the Holy Spirit of the Promise, the pledge of our inheritance', Ephesians, 1:13.
It is to reawaken and restore the life and love of the Blessed Trinity within us that all Christian healing is directed.
We need 'restoring' and 'healing' because we are part of the sinful human race. Man made his world a sinful place and so humanity could only be described as a fallen people. Through sin we became unhealthy. We are 'diseased', not at ease with God, our neighbour or within ourselves.
The 'restorer' or 'healer' is Christ. God so loved the world that He still sent Jesus to us, but now not as Lord of creation but as a healer and reconciler. Though personally sinless He lived out his divine Sonship as 'man under the sign of sin.'
He was perfectly obedient to his Father's will even to death on a cross. In return for this obedience 'God raised him high . . . so that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God the Father', Philippians 2:9-11.
This is the belief underlying all Christian healing. Just as sin entered every aspect of our human life and history, so also the grace of Christ's redemptive act permeates our whole lives and world.
Our healing is a restoration of the life we would have had if man had not sinned. All healing is related to Christ, and our belief in him, both sacramental and personal.
The great healing act is the sacrament of baptism 'when we were baptised in Christ Jesus we went into the tomb with him, and joined him in death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father's glory we too might live a new life', Romans 6:4. We also need as adults to believe personally in Christ's power, and the Father's willingness to heal us_ Like Jesus we too must live under the sign of sin, and so we call on the Blessed Trinity to come to our assistance; to the Father who created us, to the Son who died and rose again for us, and to the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. 'Didn't you realise that you were God's temple and that the spirit of God was living among you', 1 Corinthians, 3:16.
Healing is within us as Christians. It is God the Father's gift to us in the Spirit of the Risen Christ. God's will for our wholeness is achieved through the Spirit of Christ. He is the dialysis machine which purifies our blood of its deadly disease. His death and resurrection are our antidote to sin.
If Christ wants, and is able to heal us, why is it that we as Christians as a general rule are so reluctant to admit that we need healing? I know from my own experience in my dealings with people who come to me to be ministered to in healing that the most difficult part of the healing process is to make them aware of the hurt which they automatically screen from Christ's healing power, and even their own consciousness. Like alcoholics, the first step in healing is an acknowledgement of the precise area in which we need to be healed.
Without this acknowledgement before God that I need to be healed there can be no healing. For years I suffered from a deep hurt with which I could not come to terms. I talked it over endlessly with friends. I prayed for deliverance from the hurt but it would not go away, because in some vague way I was afraid of being healed much as a cripple comes to depend on his wheelchair.
Keeping my hurt was like a drug because I could not face the pain with my own unaided strength. One day when I was alone in my study I realised this hurt was holding me back from loving God more fully. I wanted to be an eagle, but was only a budgie singing in my cage about my hurt. I dared then to love and let the hurt go. I surrendered it to Christ, and it was like a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders. Life has not been the same since.
But how do we come to the stage where we can be healed? First of all we have to define the precise area of 'disease', and this requires total honesty before God, and also the gift of discernment.
Through the gift of discernment, generally of the person whom the Spirit calls to minister healing, the area of healing is uncovered. Many people with whom I have prayed have in the beginning asked for something quite different from their real needs until gradually they were led to opening the source of their hurt to Christ's healing touch.
Healing involves change of lifestyle. We are all apprehensive about the kind of life Christ will demand of us once we allow the full light of the Gospel to shine on those parts of our lives which up to now we have kept in the shadows. It requires humility to acknowledge that despite all our prayers and apparent righteousness we are still selfrighteous and part of a damaged world and people.
The first one who needs healing is always ourselves. The moment I lose sight of that in the healing ministry then I am in need of healing.
Next week — The Spirit who heals'.