Healing Series Part III: Healing and the Sacraments: Part 2

In Part 1 of “Healing and the Sacraments” we looked at Jesus’ real presence in the Sacraments of the Church. Jesus Christ is the same Jesus Christ at work today who walked through Galilee about 2,000 years ago. And, wherever Jesus went, he taught, delivered people from evil spirits, brought conversion through his presence, healed the sick, and raised the dead. Then, in Matthew 28:20 Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” We know Jesus’ heart brings healing in both soul and body, because that’s what Jesus did during his earthly ministry. At the end of the day, we have to grapple with this truth: Jesus just likes to heal. And, the Sacraments usher us into this mystery of his healing of both body and soul. Whatever Mass we participate in is the one Sacrifice made present in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of the Father. It doesn’t matter if you’re on pilgrimage in Jerusalem, at a shrine in France, or milling about St. Francis de Sales. One holy place doesn’t have “more” of Jesus Christ than another, because it is always the same Jesus Christ present in and through the same Holy Spirit who glorifies the same heavenly Father through all eternity.  So, how can we begin to see healing happen more often at our Masses, during our times of prayer? The biggest key, in my estimation, is faith.

Caveat about Healing and Faith

Before I go much further, I want to clarify one point: I am not accusing anyone of lack of faith if they don’t see healing. John the Evangelist relates a story John 5:1-15 about Jesus healing a crippled in a portico of the Temple. We see in verse 13 that the man Jesus healed didn’t even know who Jesus was: “The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there” (Jn. 5:13). We see here that Jesus healed both when people knew who he was in faith and when people had no clue who he was; again, we have to grapple with the fact that Jesus just likes to do good things, like healing people. Healing is not a recipe, it’s a relationship. So, as I describe faith for healing, I hope we can be encouraged to believe for more and grow the seeds of faith that have been growing in our minds and hearts throughout our lives. I hope to foster the deepening of our faith and my heart never wants to tear down, just build up in the Holy Spirit.

Sources of Christian Faith: the Church

When we want to delve into a topic, God gave us two wellsprings for truth: (1) Scripture and (2) Tradition (through the teaching office of the Church that Jesus founded, i.e. the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church). Both Scripture and Tradition go together: without the tradition and the teaching office of the Church, no one would have been able to even compile the texts known as inspired and canonize them into what we call: the Bible. The Holy Spirit works through both of these founts for us. Revelation of Jesus Christ springs from both Scripture and Tradition.

Pope Francis published an encyclical about faith, one mostly written by his predecessor Benedict XVI, titled: The Light of Faith. In that letter, the teaching office of the Church makes this declaration about faith:

The history of Jesus is the complete manifestation of God’s reliability…The word which God speaks to us in Jesus is not simply one word among many, but his eternal Word (cf. Heb 1:1-2). God can give no greater guarantee of his love, as Saint Paul reminds us (cf. Rom 8:31-39). Christian faith is thus faith in a perfect love, in its decisive power, in its ability to transform the world and to unfold its history (bold added, Lumen Fidei, paragraph 15).

In this statement, the Church is teaching that entering into a life of faith means seeing the world the way it really is in Jesus Christ. This type of faith involves more than assenting to formulas or intellectually accepting the proper wording of statements about God, Jesus Christ, the Church, humanity, etc. Rather, this faith involves a living in trust by the Holy Spirit.

Faith means many things, one aspect is assenting to teaching. But, this is only one aspect of faith, and it is the easiest of the many ways to look at faith because I am in charge of my assent. If we limit ourselves to this one notion of faith, we confine ourselves to what makes sense to our limited minds and experiences. We need to remember what the Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to proclaim to us from the LORD: “For my thoughts [those of the LORD] are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways – oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). If we move the goalposts of faith to just what I can grasp, understand, what seems reasonable to me, or what I can accept based on my limited experience, then we have cut ourselves off from the fullness of the blessing Jesus died and rose to give us. This is an invitation to look at faith anew. Here are some Scripture passages that help expand our understanding of what Christian faith means.

Sources of Christian Faith: the Scriptures

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, Matthew shares that Jesus cursed a fig tree and it immediately withered. Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” (Mt. 21:22). Prayer with faith. This prayer in faith can curse fig trees apparently, but Jesus said more than this: “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done” (Mt. 21:21). Jesus contrasts faith with, “not wavering.” The word used in the Greek for wavering is “diakrino,” and it can mean: to distinguish by judgment or “doubt, hesitate, waver.” In one sense, you can almost sense Jesus saying: believe and don’t overthink it (see James 1:5-8). This faith Jesus teaches goes beyond a mental assent to a doctrine, and into more of a deep, single-hearted trust in Jesus. And, Jesus describes this faith in a context of acting on this faith, praying with this faith.

In Mark’s Gospel, we glimpse what faith means for Jesus through this inspired account of two healings in chapter five (Mark 5:21-43). In verse 23, Jairus pleaded with Jesus to come to his house and heal his dying daughter, and Jesus goes with him. Along the way, a woman who had been ill for 12 years and suffered greatly from doctors (vv. 25-26) comes up behind Jesus saying to herself, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured” (v. 28). She is immediately cured. Jesus was aware that “power had gone out of him” (v. 30). And, when Jesus sees who was healed, he says to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you” (v. 34). As Jesus and Jairus approach Jairus’ home, they get word that his daughter had died (v. 35). At this point, Jesus does something as remarkable as the clothes healing: “Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, ‘Do not be afraid; just have faith’” (v. 36). Jesus boldly enters the home, takes the little girl by the hand and commands, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (v. 41)! She does rise to the astonishment of everyone. This “Marcan Sandwich” of the healing by his clothing between the bread of Jairus daughter’s rising from the dead, is jam packed with insights into the faith Jesus invites us into through the Holy Spirit.

First, we see the expectation of both Jairus and the suffering woman. Jairus pleads with Jesus and the woman states, in an act of expectant trust, that all she needs to do is touch his clothes to be healed. That expectation is what Jesus calls faith, “Daughter, your faith has saved you!” When Jesus speaks of saving, we know that he means more than that she will get into heaven one day. “Faith has saved you” also means that she was healed! Salvation includes eternal life, forgiveness, conversion, deliverance and healing; because Jesus took all evil upon himself on the Cross to bear it away. Jesus shows us in this account that faith means (1) expectation, (2) a readiness to receive, and (3) acting upon that expectation (she reached out in faith to touch his clothes). When we approach Jesus and touch him in faith, power flows from him (Mk. 5:30). 

Second, we see that just as Jesus contrasted faith with “wavering” in Matthew 21, we see Jesus contrasting faith with fear. Jesus’ faith made him “disregard” the bad news. Faith brings an assurance, a conviction. And, he tells the mourning father, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (v. 36). Obviously, Jesus was not telling Jairus to make sure he could remember a formula of doctrine. Faith, in this context, means trust, fearlessness, believing in the Good News in spite of bad news. And, acting on that faith with every step, even up to the point of commanding a corpse to rise. Jesus calls us into this faith, just as he called Jairus into this faith during what had to be the worst moment of his life.

There are many, many more passages that we can go into about faith, but this will help draws us to a conclusion for now.

Faith for Healing

When we approach the Sacraments with faith, is it with the fullness of faith that Jesus calls us to live? We do need to believe the right things about the Sacraments. The Eucharist is not just “blessed bread and wine,” it is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity. When we hear God’s word proclaimed at Mass, it isn’t just nice stories we’ve kept over the millennia; Scripture is God’s word speaking to us now, today, at this time; and, when God speaks, creation is impacted, transformed and saved. When we receive Absolution in Confession, we are restored to our baptismal grace, body and soul. When we receive the Anointing of the Sick, we are joined to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in our bodies and souls. And, healing can and will take place through all of these Sacraments, because Jesus is a healer of both soul and body. He doesn’t poo-poo the body, he came in the flesh to be one with us. He doesn’t only care about the soul, he healed lepers (even those who were ungrateful), raised the dead, and brought a last-minute convert into Paradise from the cross. Jesus just loves us, and his love is a powerful love wherein he does everything for us by the Holy Spirit. 

If we want to see this power of his love break into the Church, it will mean stepping out in greater faith and asking for more faith from God the Father. It will mean believing anew in the power of Jesus to heal you when we receive the Eucharist. It will mean checking out limbs and body parts and such after receiving the Eucharist because Jesus is in us and he is a healer, and when we expect him to act, we act. It will mean expecting that Jesus is going to act in our lives every single time we come to Mass. Faith means entrusting ourselves to him completely, expecting that he will do good things for us, and that those good things include all good things. If we know doctors want to heal, and that that is a good thing, how much more does Jesus? When the woman touched Jesus garment in Mark 5, she just had his clothes in her hand. We receive all of Jesus within us at Communion and through each of the Sacraments.

Asking for More

We can fall into the habit of only expecting what seems reasonable, or what we feel comfortable with believing. But, the Gospels challenge us to yearn for more. Jesus invites us to ask for more in Luke 11:9-10, 13:

And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened…If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?

Notice the assurance in Jesus’ heart: “you will receive,” “you will find,” and the “door will be opened” (Lk. 11:9). And, in Jesus’ heart is a desire to direct us to the Father for the Holy Spirit (Lk. 11:13). The type of faith Jesus invites us to live can only be fruitful within the move and power of the Holy Spirit. This is the life of faith Jesus asks us to live, a life in the Holy Spirit. We cannot believe, expect in trust, and act in faith, in all of the fullness that this invites us to live, without the Holy Spirit.

Those who are reading this, please, please join me in praying for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the Church. We cannot be Church, the Body of Christ, without the Holy Spirit. And, these graces of healing, conversion, and deliverance cannot happen by us doing what we’ve always done, believing the comfortable way we’ve always believed, or living what we think is more “reasonable.” Our world and, more closely, our families and friends need Jesus Christ to work in, with, and through us by the Holy Spirit. And, the faith that unleashes this power to build the Kingdom of God happens when the Holy Spirit clothes us in glory. Jesus wants this for us, that’s why he told us to ask, seek, and knock at the door for the gift of the Holy Spirit. If we ask, step out in faith, and believe in all the fullness that the Gospels reveal, we will see signs and wonders, we will see conversions, healings, and deliverances. In short, we will see Jesus! And, this will glorify the Father in the Holy Spirit to the building up of the Kingdom of God on earth. 

Come, Holy Spirit!

In Part 1 of “Healing and the Sacraments” we looked at Jesus’ real presence in the Sacraments of the Church. Jesus Christ is the same Jesus Christ at work today who walked through Galilee about 2,000 years ago. And, wherever Jesus went, he taught, delivered people from evil spirits, brought conversion through his presence, healed the sick, and raised the dead. Then, in Matthew 28:20 Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” We know Jesus’ heart brings healing in both soul and body, because that’s what Jesus did during his earthly ministry. At the end of the day, we have to grapple with this truth: Jesus just likes to heal. And, the Sacraments usher us into this mystery of his healing of both body and soul. Whatever Mass we participate in is the one Sacrifice made present in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, to the glory of the Father. It doesn’t matter if you’re on pilgrimage in Jerusalem, at a shrine in France, or milling about St. Francis de Sales. One holy place doesn’t have “more” of Jesus Christ than another, because it is always the same Jesus Christ present in and through the same Holy Spirit who glorifies the same heavenly Father through all eternity.  So, how can we begin to see healing happen more often at our Masses, during our times of prayer? The biggest key, in my estimation, is faith.

Caveat about Healing and Faith

Before I go much further, I want to clarify one point: I am not accusing anyone of lack of faith if they don’t see healing. John the Evangelist relates a story John 5:1-15 about Jesus healing a crippled in a portico of the Temple. We see in verse 13 that the man Jesus healed didn’t even know who Jesus was: “The man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there” (Jn. 5:13). We see here that Jesus healed both when people knew who he was in faith and when people had no clue who he was; again, we have to grapple with the fact that Jesus just likes to do good things, like healing people. Healing is not a recipe, it’s a relationship. So, as I describe faith for healing, I hope we can be encouraged to believe for more and grow the seeds of faith that have been growing in our minds and hearts throughout our lives. I hope to foster the deepening of our faith and my heart never wants to tear down, just build up in the Holy Spirit.

Sources of Christian Faith: the Church

When we want to delve into a topic, God gave us two wellsprings for truth: (1) Scripture and (2) Tradition (through the teaching office of the Church that Jesus founded, i.e. the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church). Both Scripture and Tradition go together: without the tradition and the teaching office of the Church, no one would have been able to even compile the texts known as inspired and canonize them into what we call: the Bible. The Holy Spirit works through both of these founts for us. Revelation of Jesus Christ springs from both Scripture and Tradition.

Pope Francis published an encyclical about faith, one mostly written by his predecessor Benedict XVI, titled: The Light of Faith. In that letter, the teaching office of the Church makes this declaration about faith:

The history of Jesus is the complete manifestation of God’s reliability…The word which God speaks to us in Jesus is not simply one word among many, but his eternal Word (cf. Heb 1:1-2). God can give no greater guarantee of his love, as Saint Paul reminds us (cf. Rom 8:31-39). Christian faith is thus faith in a perfect love, in its decisive power, in its ability to transform the world and to unfold its history (bold added, Lumen Fidei, paragraph 15).

In this statement, the Church is teaching that entering into a life of faith means seeing the world the way it really is in Jesus Christ. This type of faith involves more than assenting to formulas or intellectually accepting the proper wording of statements about God, Jesus Christ, the Church, humanity, etc. Rather, this faith involves a living in trust by the Holy Spirit.

Faith means many things, one aspect is assenting to teaching. But, this is only one aspect of faith, and it is the easiest of the many ways to look at faith because I am in charge of my assent. If we limit ourselves to this one notion of faith, we confine ourselves to what makes sense to our limited minds and experiences. We need to remember what the Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to proclaim to us from the LORD: “For my thoughts [those of the LORD] are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways – oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). If we move the goalposts of faith to just what I can grasp, understand, what seems reasonable to me, or what I can accept based on my limited experience, then we have cut ourselves off from the fullness of the blessing Jesus died and rose to give us. This is an invitation to look at faith anew. Here are some Scripture passages that help expand our understanding of what Christian faith means.

Sources of Christian Faith: the Scriptures

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, Matthew shares that Jesus cursed a fig tree and it immediately withered. Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive” (Mt. 21:22). Prayer with faith. This prayer in faith can curse fig trees apparently, but Jesus said more than this: “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will be done” (Mt. 21:21). Jesus contrasts faith with, “not wavering.” The word used in the Greek for wavering is “diakrino,” and it can mean: to distinguish by judgment or “doubt, hesitate, waver.” In one sense, you can almost sense Jesus saying: believe and don’t overthink it (see James 1:5-8). This faith Jesus teaches goes beyond a mental assent to a doctrine, and into more of a deep, single-hearted trust in Jesus. And, Jesus describes this faith in a context of acting on this faith, praying with this faith.

In Mark’s Gospel, we glimpse what faith means for Jesus through this inspired account of two healings in chapter five (Mark 5:21-43). In verse 23, Jairus pleaded with Jesus to come to his house and heal his dying daughter, and Jesus goes with him. Along the way, a woman who had been ill for 12 years and suffered greatly from doctors (vv. 25-26) comes up behind Jesus saying to herself, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured” (v. 28). She is immediately cured. Jesus was aware that “power had gone out of him” (v. 30). And, when Jesus sees who was healed, he says to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you” (v. 34). As Jesus and Jairus approach Jairus’ home, they get word that his daughter had died (v. 35). At this point, Jesus does something as remarkable as the clothes healing: “Disregarding the message that was reported, Jesus said to the synagogue official, ‘Do not be afraid; just have faith’” (v. 36). Jesus boldly enters the home, takes the little girl by the hand and commands, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (v. 41)! She does rise to the astonishment of everyone. This “Marcan Sandwich” of the healing by his clothing between the bread of Jairus daughter’s rising from the dead, is jam packed with insights into the faith Jesus invites us into through the Holy Spirit.

First, we see the expectation of both Jairus and the suffering woman. Jairus pleads with Jesus and the woman states, in an act of expectant trust, that all she needs to do is touch his clothes to be healed. That expectation is what Jesus calls faith, “Daughter, your faith has saved you!” When Jesus speaks of saving, we know that he means more than that she will get into heaven one day. “Faith has saved you” also means that she was healed! Salvation includes eternal life, forgiveness, conversion, deliverance and healing; because Jesus took all evil upon himself on the Cross to bear it away. Jesus shows us in this account that faith means (1) expectation, (2) a readiness to receive, and (3) acting upon that expectation (she reached out in faith to touch his clothes). When we approach Jesus and touch him in faith, power flows from him (Mk. 5:30). 

Second, we see that just as Jesus contrasted faith with “wavering” in Matthew 21, we see Jesus contrasting faith with fear. Jesus’ faith made him “disregard” the bad news. Faith brings an assurance, a conviction. And, he tells the mourning father, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (v. 36). Obviously, Jesus was not telling Jairus to make sure he could remember a formula of doctrine. Faith, in this context, means trust, fearlessness, believing in the Good News in spite of bad news. And, acting on that faith with every step, even up to the point of commanding a corpse to rise. Jesus calls us into this faith, just as he called Jairus into this faith during what had to be the worst moment of his life.

There are many, many more passages that we can go into about faith, but this will help draws us to a conclusion for now.

Faith for Healing

When we approach the Sacraments with faith, is it with the fullness of faith that Jesus calls us to live? We do need to believe the right things about the Sacraments. The Eucharist is not just “blessed bread and wine,” it is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity. When we hear God’s word proclaimed at Mass, it isn’t just nice stories we’ve kept over the millenia; Scripture is God’s word speaking to us now, today, at this time; and, when God speaks, creation is impacted, transformed and saved. When we receive Absolution in Confession, we are restored to our baptismal grace, body and soul. When we receive the Anointing of the Sick, we are joined to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in our bodies and souls. And, healing can and will take place through all of these Sacraments, because Jesus is a healer of both soul and body. He doesn’t poo-poo the body, he came in the flesh to be one with us. He doesn’t only care about the soul, he healed lepers (even those who were ungrateful), raised the dead, and brought a last-minute convert into Paradise from the cross. Jesus just loves us, and his love is a powerful love wherein he does everything for us by the Holy Spirit. 

If we want to see this power of his love break into the Church, it will mean stepping out in greater faith and asking for more faith from God the Father. It will mean believing anew in the power of Jesus to heal you when we receive the Eucharist. It will mean checking out limbs and body parts and such after receiving the Eucharist because Jesus is in us and he is a healer, and when we expect him to act, we act. It will mean expecting that Jesus is going to act in our lives every single time we come to Mass. Faith means entrusting ourselves to him completely, expecting that he will do good things for us, and that those good things include all good things. If we know doctors want to heal, and that that is a good thing, how much more does Jesus? When the woman touched Jesus garment in Mark 5, she just had his clothes in her hand. We receive all of Jesus within us at Communion and through each of the Sacraments.

Asking for More

We can fall into the habit of only expecting what seems reasonable, or what we feel comfortable with believing. But, the Gospels challenge us to yearn for more. Jesus invites us to ask for more in Luke 11:9-10, 13:

And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened…If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?

Notice the assurance in Jesus’ heart: “you will receive,” “you will find,” and the “door will be opened” (Lk. 11:9). And, in Jesus’ heart is a desire to direct us to the Father for the Holy Spirit (Lk. 11:13). The type of faith Jesus invites us to live can only be fruitful within the move and power of the Holy Spirit. This is the life of faith Jesus asks us to live, a life in the Holy Spirit. We cannot believe, expect in trust, and act in faith, in all of the fulness that this invites us to live, without the Holy Spirit.

Those who are reading this, please, please join me in praying for a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the life of the Church. We cannot be Church, the Body of Christ, without the Holy Spirit. And, these graces of healing, conversion, and deliverance cannot happen by us doing what we’ve always done, believing the comfortable way we’ve always believed, or living what we think is more “reasonable.” Our world and, more closely, our families and friends need Jesus Christ to work in, with, and through us by the Holy Spirit. And, the faith that unleashes this power to build the Kingdom of God happens when the Holy Spirit clothes us in glory. Jesus wants this for us, that’s why he told us to ask, seek, and knock at the door for the gift of the Holy Spirit. If we ask, step out in faith, and believe in all the fullness that the Gospels reveal, we will see signs and wonders, we will see conversions, healings, and deliverances. In short, we will see Jesus! And, this will glorify the Father in the Holy Spirit to the building up of the Kingdom of God on earth. 

Come, Holy Spirit!

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