If we had a man here who could work a miracle, who had the gift of healing and could heal our cancer, aching back, knees, headache, arthritis, diabetes, insomnia, etc., would you go to him first or go to Confession?
We had such a man at my home parish of St. Paul’s in Richmond. But, before people could line up to be prayed over by him, he strongly encouraged us to line up at the confessional, because that could give us greater healing. In the end, however, the line-up for Confession was tiny, while his line went outside the church door.
Every year at Westminster Abbey, we’d have a famous speaker give us a talk, normally on a spiritual topic. But one year we had a doctor come in to talk about physical health. Do you know how big the attendance was for him? A lot larger than for any spiritual talk.
We tend to focus on the physical and neglect the spiritual. We live in a culture that focuses on the external, and since much of our culture is spiritually unhealthy, we seem healthy in comparison.
Today, Jesus cures St. Peter’s mother-in-law, then after sunset cures many “who were sick” (Mk 1:29-34). But He doesn’t stay around to cure everyone—isn’t that interesting? He could have cured everyone, and opened the biggest hospital ever. When everyone’s looking for Him, He doesn’t stay around, but says, “Let us go on to the neighbouring towns.” Why? To cure more people? No. “So that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do” (Mk 1:38). This passage is very revealing for us: Jesus didn’t come to cure every physical disease. He came to cure spiritual ones. The physical healings are signs of spiritual ones (CCC 549).
You see, resentment and unforgiveness are more deadly than cancer. Loneliness is more painful than hunger. Selfishness is worse than AIDS. Anger, negative thoughts, judgmental thoughts are worse than migraines. Looking lustfully at people is worse than being blind. Cowardice, lack of courage, laziness are worse than fatigue. Someone once told my mom that divorce is worse than death. Because, when our spouse dies, at least we know the person still loves us. Divorce means that the love we thought we had is dead, and that’s painful. It’s devastating for spouses and children (Thank God, He can heal it).
Spiritual diseases ultimately are worse than physical ones because they can kill us spiritually and mortal sins kill us eternally. Jesus says, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Lk 12:4-5). When we die, we don’t take with us our bodily diseases, but we take our soul as it is, with all the beautiful things and the bad things. If our heart is barely open to God, then that will limit our happiness in heaven.
The happiest people in the world are those with great relationships. So the things that hurt relationships, such as pride (where we don’t listen or apologize), lying, disrespect, lack of courtesy—those are the worst and make life truly hard.
One reason why God allows us to grow old and lose our looks is to heal our vanity. Because vanity is worse than looking old, and needs to be healed.
I don’t mean to undervalue suffering and pain. It’s hard and it’s challenging, and we should try to heal disease and illness. That’s why Catholics invented hospitals and we’re still the largest provider of health care in the world. But I’m following Jesus’ teaching that there are worse things in life than physical pain.
So, where do we need healing? Ask God to heal the body and go to your doctor. More importantly, ask God to heal our pride, selfishness, greed, hurt, impatience, and whatever else!
I’ve heard many times from people that they feel their faith is weak. One reason their faith is weak could be because they’re malnourished… spiritually. We don’t nourish our faith. The Lenten Challenge can be a good remedy for this: find a group of 3-6 people that you want to see for 6 weeks and read Rediscover Catholicism and share with each other what you learn about your faith! This gives energy, encouragement, and doing it as a group keeps us accountable.
The peace of soul of going to Confession is better than hearing we’re cancer-free. To have better relationships, to be free of addictions is amazing. The physical is important, but the spiritual is more important.