The sacraments are particularly efficacious ways in which Christ the divine physician continues his work of healing through the Church.
The Catechism teaches that just as Jesus touched and healed the sick during his earthly ministry, "so in the sacraments Christ continues to 'touch' us in order to heal us." The Church "believes in the life-giving presence of Christ, the physician of souls and bodies. This presence is particularly active through the sacraments, and in an altogether special way through the Eucharist, the bread that gives eternal life and that Saint Paul suggests is connected with bodily health." The sacraments are grounded in the recognition that the body and matter are part of the goodness of creation and can be used by God as vehicles of his grace. Scripture teaches this sacramental understanding of the world. Jesus sometimes healed people by his mere word, but at other times he used physical means: the laying on of hands or saliva or clay. Even the fringe of his garment could be a vehicle of his healing power. In Acts, handkerchiefs or aprons that Paul had touched were used to heal (Acts 19:12). In the Old Testament, a dead man was raised up by touching the bones of the prophet Elisha (2 Kgs 13:21)….
In a sense all the sacraments can be understood as sacraments of healing, since all are efficacious for the healing of fallen human nature. It is preeminently in the Eucharist, the heart of Christian life, in which Christ's total gift of himself on the cross is made present and available to us, that we experience his healing power. Saint Ignatius of Antioch called the Eucharist the "medicine of immortality." So our response at Mass immediately before receiving Holy Communion is an act of faith in Christ's healing: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed." In the Byzantine Catholic liturgy, the prayer before Communion more explicitly includes physical healing: "May the communion of your holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment nor to my condemnation, O Lord, but to the healing of soul and body."
Mary Healy. "They saw the signs he was performing on the sick" from Healing: Bringing the Gift of God's Mercy to the World (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2015).
Excerpt from Healing: Bringing the Gift of God’s Mercy to the World ©Mary Healy. Published by OSV Publishing. All rights reserved, no other use of this material is authorized. Image credit: James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Palsied Man Let Down through the Roof (Le paralytique descendu du toit), 1886-1896.
Mary Healy is professor of Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and an international speaker on topics related to Scripture, evangelization, healing, and the spiritual life. Dr. Healy is chair of the Theological Commission of CHARIS (Charismatic Renewal International Service) in Rome. In 2014 Pope Francis appointed her as one of the first three women ever to serve on the Pontifical Biblical Commission. She is the author of Healing: Bringing the Gift of God’s Mercy to the World, Scripture, Mercy, and Homosexuality, Deliverance Ministry, and co-author of The Spiritual Gifts Handbook: Using Your Gifts to Build the Kingdom. Her web site is here.Copyright © 2015 Our Sunday Visitor
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