Sr. Veritas Grau, FSP
has acquired a certain fame as the land of faith-healers. Filipinos who fear
and distrust scientific medical means, or who are too poor to avail themselves
of the services of doctors and hospitals, flock to persons who can heal them
with the laying on of hands, with massage, with rituals, accompanied perhaps
by the requirement to take herbal concoctions and submit to dietary prescriptions.
Stories of sudden and rationally unexplained cures worked by such healers
abound and attract even persons outside the country, for whom the faith healer
is the desperate recourse.
At times, faith
healing is done in an explicitly religious context and linked to miraculous
images: pictures and statues of the Virgin or of Christ that weep tears, oil,
blood. Faith healers may present themselves as persons privileged with visions
of the Divine, possessed of the power to work wondrous signs, and sent by
God to heal. Charismatic healing groups that pray over the sick have become
a ministry in the Church, following the injunction of James in his letter:
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let
them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name if the Lord. And the
prayer if faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. (James
The desire for
healing is as old as humanity and its ills. This was one of the reasons for
innumerable multitudes to seek out Jesus everywhere he went, to press around
him and trample one another in their eagerness to touch him and be healed
(cf. Luke 12:1). People found his teaching fascinating, and his miracles over
nature admirable and awesome, bur his healing power brought him the greatest
fame. It was one of the clearest proofs of his being a Master.
It was a power
that manifested itself on all levels: the physical, the psychological, the
spiritual. Not only bodily illnesses and deformities were cured, nut also
sicknesses that touched the psyche, and in a particular way the ravages of
sin that separated the person from God and his fellow human beings. Jesus
rescued people also from demoniac possessions, which shoed his power over
the supernatural world. Even the power of death was under his sway.
this power effortlessly, almost matter-of-factly, with the surety of touch
that shows total mastery of this art and skill. Though he usually healed persons
directly with a touch, with a word, a gesture, and made use of material means
like saliva and mud, physical distance was no obstacle; his power spanned
time and space and effected relief from suffering. He was generous with the
use of this power; the sight of suffering was enough to trigger a compassionate
response that could not be denied, and he did not limit its expression only
to his people: the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out
from Him and healed them all. (Luke 6:19).
In the exercise
of this power, he turned away absolutely from seeking his own glory; this
is why many times he sternly enjoined those he had healed not to speak about
the cure. He could not resist healing them; their need was too strong for
his compassion to withstand. But he had come on earth to offer the world the
image of a Messiah and Master that exercised a different power from the usual
pattern of self-glorification, domination, oppression. His healing power was
used according to the pattern of service and self-sacrificing love, even unto
his own death.
Healing and Faith
It is true that
for his power to work, he called on the person seeking healing to have faith
in Him. The lack of that faith was what blocked him from working many cures
in his own home town. The presence of it released the power, even when he
was not immediately conscious of the appeal for help as in the case of the
hemorrhagic woman. But faith in him meant faith in the One who had sent him,
and who was the center of his life.
still heals in our midst. Perhaps, however, we sometimes forget that He is
the Master Healer in the sacramental presence especially in the Eucharist
and in Penance, and that His word can be powerful as of old, to those who
have faith. He heals also through His presence in the community of believers
when his followers follow his injunction to love one another and offer healing
to one another. He heals also through medical science and the dedication of
medical caregivers. Have we really enough faith to allow his power to be released
for our healing through these "ordinary" channels of power?
Or do we look
for healing rather in persons given the gift of healing? There is nothing
wrong with this, in itself. Even during his lifetime, Jesus shared his power
to cast out demons and heal the sick with his disciples. But perhaps what
is to be corrected is the tendency to put our hopes almost exclusively on
these instruments, forgetting that it is Christ alone who heals.
arise also when the healer forgets he is only an instrument, that his power
is never for his glory, never given to put him above his fellows but to serve
them humbly and self-effacingly. A healer becomes suspect when he or she turns
attention away from the Master and relies too much on personal power instead
of sacrificial love.
All true healers
are aware that they are wounded healers, for even the Master Healer, Christ,
bears the wounds of love that emptied itself to save others.