Jesus went about doing good (Acts 10:38). His ministry included both preaching and healing. Wherever Jesus went, people were set free from both ailments and evil spirits. Most of us believe that if Jesus walked our streets, people would be converted, healed, and set free, because “Hey, he’s Jesus, and that’s what he does.” What happens when we go to Mass, then, or participate in any of the other Sacraments? Jesus is present in those times of prayer; and, it’s the same Jesus with the same power of love. Here’s how the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) describes a Sacrament:
“Seated at the right hand of the Father” and pouring out the Holy Spirit on his Body which is the Church, Christ now acts through the sacraments he instituted to communicated his grace. The sacraments are perceptible signs (words and actions) accessible to our human nature. By the action of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit they make present efficaciously the grace that they signify (CCC paragraph 1084)
Jesus made visible the invisible God (John 14:8-9). He is the “Word made flesh, that dwelt among us” (John 1:14). God’s healing power flowed through Jesus’ body by the Holy Spirit. And, God made his presence touchable, sensible, and experiential: “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life - for the life was made visible” (1 John 1:1-2). The Sacraments continue his presence among us for the same graces Jesus revealed to us in the Gospels. He is the same, “yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). So, when the Church teaches us that “Christ now acts through the sacraments he instituted” (CCC 1084), how could those “acts” not include healing of both soul and body? How could Jesus care for people’s bodies and souls one day and not today, especially through the Sacraments he instituted and which make him present?
The preeminent Sacrament for the Body of Christ, the Church, is the Body of Christ we receive at Eucharist. We need to guard our speech and thoughtful speak about the Eucharist. Sometimes people slip into the habit of calling Communion simply “the bread” or “the wine” after its consecration. But, after the words of consecration, wherein Christ’s eternal and creative word is spoken, what once was simple bread and wine become now the real presence of Jesus Christ. This is what the Catechism states about Eucharistic Communion: “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained’” (CCC 1374). As Jesus tells us in the fourth book of the New Testament, the Gospel of John: “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him...whoever eats this bread will live forever” (John 6:55, 58b). Jesus’ presence among people always brought conversion, deliverance and healing. When people touched only his clothing, they were healed: “And [they] begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed” (Matthew 14:36). If the clothing Jesus wore bore his love that brought real healing into people’s bodies and souls, how much more his “true, real, and substantial” presence contained in the Eucharist? We have an awesome gift in the Eucharist!
In the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick, healing takes place for body and soul. Jesus never ministered to our souls alone, he always wanted to transform the entire person. In Reconciliation, our repentance and the prayer of absolution cleanses us from sin and draws us back into the grace of baptismal communion with Jesus Christ. In the Anointing of the Sick, we fulfill the words spoken through the Letter of James that reads: “Is anyone among you sick? They should summon the priests of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will [heal] the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up” (James 5:14-15). The word James uses for “heal” is also translated “save.” In the Gospels, this word “save” was used to describe both conversion, healing, and deliverance. It is the full impact of the life, death, resurrection and Pentecost of Jesus Christ that this “saving” speaks to in the Anointing of the Sick. Through both of these Sacraments (Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick) it is Jesus who is present in both word and deed. The same Jesus Christ truly present in the Eucharist. The same Jesus who calmed storms, raised the dead, forgave sinners, delivered people from evil spirits, and healed “every disease and illness among the people” (Matthew 4:23). Faith unload this awesome mystery for the Body of Christ, the Church. And, that union of faith and charity draws upon that infinite wellspring of divine life for us today, in our bodies and in our souls.
How can we open ourselves to see this love of Jesus for our inner and physical healing through the Sacraments of the Church today? To look into this, we will continue soon with a Part 2 for “Healing and the Sacraments” to help us to receive the mercy and love of Jesus more fully in our sacramental life as a Church.