You might find this reflection helpful if you or someone you love is struggling with poor health.
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Many people were attracted to Jesus because they recognised that he was speaking to their hearts in a language that was real and carried life-giving authority, a power to inspire and to bring positive change. But I imagine that even more were drawn to his ability to perform miracles of physical, emotional and spiritual healing.
We know from many gospel accounts that people brought their sick relatives and friends to Jesus in the hope that he would restore them to health.
God never intended there to be sickness or death in the world, and we know (from the first chapters of Genesis) that sickness entered the world and continues to this day because of misuse and abuse of freedom not only by ourselves (unhealthy living) but also passed down from our ancestors in faith beginning with Adam and Eve.
One of the most difficult of life’s experiences for any of us is to suffer sickness in ourselves and to watch this in those we love. Illness can be of the body, the spirit or the soul, and very often is a combination of all three because each one of us is one single body, not robots able to be divided into separate components. A physical illness will affect us spiritually and a spiritual struggle will often have physical and psychological symptoms.
This means that if the illness we experience is primarily physical or psychological or spiritual, we can take a step towards healing at any one of these points of entry. Visiting a g00d doctor as a step towards healing chronic pain will bring a spiritual relief. And taking time to pray or to celebrate the sacraments will help us to experience the closeness and healing of God in the midst of physical illness.
A subtle but clear message in today’s gospel account of the healing of the court official’s son is that even at a distance (the official’s son was too ill to actually be brought to Jesus) the word of Jesus “your son will live” was enough. Perhaps as you suffer poor health you might feel at a distance from Jesus and therefore not be sure if He will heal you until you get your life in order or overcome your sin. NOT TRUE! Perhaps you think you haven’t been a faithful enough Christian? NO PROBLEM! If you are suffering you are right at the point of experiencing Jesus’ healing. All you need to do is to ask.
I mentioned above that the sacraments of the church are for those who need healing. We often think of the sacraments as holy actions for holy problems. Yes they are holy actions but for every human situation and struggle. The sacraments are for struggling and weak humans like you and me. The sacraments are a bridge carrying the love and healing of Jesus to our bodies and minds and spirits.
After baptism the first sacrament of healing is the Eucharist. If you need healing, receive communion regularly. (Read more on the Eucharist as a Sacrament of Healing at this link) Perhaps you know that you have a need for the sacrament of confession before you receive communion. Just do it! Ask any priest at any time for confession so that you may know the full healing power of this sacrament and the Eucharist.
For those who experience more chronic suffering from poor health, Jesus has given us the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. The Catechism of the Catholic Church introduces the section on anointing saying:
“Illness and suffering have always been among the gravest problems confronted in human life. In illness, a person experiences their powerlessness, their limitations, and their finitude. Every illness can make us glimpse death.
“Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more mature, helping them to discern in their life what is not essential so that they can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.
“Often Jesus asks the sick to believe. He makes use of signs to heal: spittle and the laying on of hands, mud and washing. The sick try to touch him, “for power came forth from him and healed them all.” And so in the sacraments Christ continues to “touch” us in order to heal us.
Catechism of the Catholic Church par. 1500ff
- Set five minutes to be still and silent and with passion express directly to Jesus your need and desire for healing for yourself or for someone you love.
- If you are experiencing severe illness you will already have sought medical help. This is a wise and necessary action. But perhaps you have not turned to Jesus with your pain, your sickness, your tears. Take time to do this now.
- If you have received the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick for this illness the grace of the sacrament will be gradually unfolding in you. However if you are suffering serious health struggles speak with a priest asking him for the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.
- You can download and print a very helpful two-page brochure on the sacrament of anointing from the US bishops’ conference at this link.
- Prayer works. Every time you feel pain due to your illness today, or every time you think of someone you love who is suffering, take 15 seconds and pray the prayer Jesus gave us, the Our Father, once, confident that Jesus is working a miracle of healing.
- You might like to pray through the intercession of one we know to be a saint of healing, New Zealand’s Suzanne Aubert. More at this link.
Hi Father John,
I always enjoy your Food For Faith messages both at Lent and Advent and I read (and listen) to them first thing in the morning.
I especially enjoy you podcasts for the following reasons
1. You have a soft gentle voice that is easy to listen to.
2. We can listen to the podcasts throughout the day even when we are driving.
3. Being partially dyslexic I have relied on verbal communication over my 70 plus years as my preferred form of communication, others may find this also.
Hope these comments may help
Thanks again Father John
Thank you very much, I do feel so blessed with praying and I daily pray for a family member to be healed and happy.
It’s really hard, I suffered from chronic pain for years, I felt sad and in despair. I didn’t pray, I then lost my father in an accident, I felt so isolated, then one day thought I have to start coming back to Mass, took time to get better but now feel like I am really living again. I pray often , go regularly to Mass. I am very close to God now , it doesn’t happen overnight.
Now I receive all the sacraments as much as I can.
Wise words Father. I have four precious friends all gravely ill so I will organise my prayer better with your advice.
My wife struggled with “chronic pain” for nine years from her teens up until before we married. It was really multiple misdiagnoses for a cancer, any one of which could have been a death sentence had it spread. But it didn’t. Once it was discovered, we prayed a lot to Suzanne Aubert for healing, and in hope that it wouldn’t return. The operation (partial amputation) and recovery was long and hard but worth it. Eventually we married in a church dedicated to St Anthony of Padua (patron saint of amputees), who we now have a special devotion to. It is still a frightening prospect, but the communion of saints, and the sacraments, keep us going.
I have found in the midst of chronic pain, or sadness that as i begin to Praise God, thinking of his wonderfulness, his love toward me, his mighty grace, that he calls me his daughter, that my name is in the palms of his hands! my spirit begins to lift and sometimes a simple song will fill my mouth or just in my head, it truly does something to the pain. Sometimes just putting on some music that reminds me of Gods love for me helps me to praise Him. Thank you Fr John for continually putting us in remembrance of how great our God is.