Christ the Healer
We are all broken in some ways. We are all sick. We are all in need of help from a healer.
Think about any past deeds or actions or memories that weigh you down? I know people who live in the shadow of terrible mistakes or some bad choices they made decades ago, and they still are paralyzed by these hidden sins, or the guilt and shame that came with them. Others have allowed habitual sins, daily bad habits, or serious addictions to control their lives, and have given up hope at ever changing.
The reality is that ALL of us, without exception, are broken in one way or another. As St. Paul says, “We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). We are all in need of healing, and Jesus Christ is the ultimate healer! This is the Good News that He proclaimed – that the sins and illnesses and evil of the world no longer need to have control over us. Past mistakes, no matter how bad, should no longer paralyze us! Present habits and sins and addictions can be broken through the power of Christ! Even any physical illness need not control our lives.
Jesus stated, “I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will walk in the light of life.” Christ came to bring people out of the darkness and brokenness of sin and into the light of true life. “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” Jesus came to fill the emptiness deep within our souls that all of us wrestle with. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Christ came to reveal truth that brings ultimate restoration to our original beauty. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Our Lord came to bring hope in the midst of despair, to bring life over death.
We catch a glimpse of this holistic healing in today’s Gospel story. Four friends carry a paralyzed man to Christ in hopes of a healing. Surely, they had heard how Jesus healed the blind, cleansed the lepers, cured the paralyzed and even raised the dead. Christ was a miracle-worker, and these men believed that He could do the same for their paralyzed friend. So they go to the home where Jesus is staying, and are not discouraged by the huge crowd that won’t allow them to pass through the entrance way. Instead, they ingeniously think about how to overcome their obstacle, climbing onto the roof, digging a hole through the ceiling, and lowering their friend right in front of Jesus.
The crowd is waiting for a miraculous healing, and Jesus doesn’t disappoint them. He does, however, shock them. Instead of immediately healing the paralytic, he first says, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now, some people may wonder what sins have to do with sickness, or what forgiveness has to do with healing. Yet here is precisely the center of the story, and the epicenter of Christ’s ministry on earth. He came not to simply make people physically well. Of course, he did that in miraculous ways, but he knew that many people who are physically have a deeper spiritually illness. The crucial problem for humanity isn’t its physical ailment, but is sin that separates us from our Creator. Through sin, humanity distances itself from God, and this departure from the Source of Life ultimately leads to death. Our sin has covered up the divine image of God within us. Thus, for ultimate and eternal healing, Christ addresses the root problem – our sins. He is the only one who can offer forgiveness of sins, and authentic, lasting healing.
Here is the Good News of Christianity– that God created each of us good, in His image, and that despite any sin that we have committed, or continue to commit, and no matter how we have distorted that image of God within, our Lord Jesus still loves us and longs to heal us of all our infirmities, and wants to restore the beauty with which He originally created us!
Jesus welcomes fallen, sick, and confused human beings, who suffer from all sorts of destructive passions and sins, and through His Church offers very tangible therapeutic methods to attain real health – spiritual health. Through the medicines of the holy sacraments – especially Holy Communion and Confession – we find healing. Through the wisdom and teachings of Holy Scripture and our Faith, we find guidance and direction. Through the therapy of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and other spiritual disciplines, we restore our soul to its original beauty.
“It is a tragic error to assume that Christ came into the world in order to simply give us a set of good teachings or a book called the New Testament. Had it been so he could have given it to us in many other ways. But he did come into the world himself so that we may be able to participate in His own perfect presence… As Saint Athanasios said, 'God became man so that man may become God.’” (Gifts of the Desert)
“My son, your sins are forgiven.” Imagine Jesus speaking these words to you. Imagine our Lord placing His healing hands upon each one of us, and confirming that our deep secrets, our hidden vices, our dark memories, and our present sins and shortcomings no longer have control over us. He frees us from whatever is covering our inner beauty, and He brings forth His divine image within each one of us. This is ultimate healing!
On this 2nd Sunday of Lent, we highlight in the Gospel Christ the Healer. And as we continue our Lenten journey, the Church draws our attention to self reflection and evaluation, so that we can confront our illnesses, so that we may realize our own sins, passions and weaknesses which have led us away from God, and turn to Christ for healing. As we turn toward God, we will find restoration and begin a journey back to our original state, where we become sacred vessels filled with the Holy Spirit. Our Lenten journey and life-long walk with Christ should ultimately lead us into a more full union with God.
Where have we fallen short? What guilt and shame tries to control us? What hidden sin pops up its head from time to time? What daily habit or even addiction tempts and controls us? Today, let’s make a decision to name each one, and place them in front of our Lord, asking for His healing. He is ready to forgive our sins, and renew us once again!
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Holy Land Pilgrimage 2019