HEALING, HEALTH, & HOLINESS
Today in the Church, we celebrate the beautiful Feast of “Mid-Pentecost,” the halfway point in the 50 day period between Pascha and Pentecost. It also falls midway between last Sunday’s commemoration of Jesus healing the Paralytic and this coming Sunday’s Gospel of the Samaritan Woman at the well. It is a Feast of Healing–both physical and spiritual–and of refreshment, as water plays a role in each occasion.
At this time when the entire world contemplates sickness and health, and on this day when real health is revealed to us, I am pleased to offer the following article by His Grace, Bishop ANTHONY on the topic of “Healing, Health and Holiness”. We will share part 1 today and part 2 next week.
Healing, Health, & Holiness
By Bishop ANTHONY
Sometimes God heals by a miracle. Most of the time He heals through the expertise of medical doctors. In that way, he cooperates with human reason. At times we are not healed in this life. We have to wait until we pass into eternal life to be completely healed. But the point is, God heals all of the time. Because Christ died on the cross and rose again on the third day, illness and death become a passageway for eternal life. We go from life to life.
When we read Psalm 41: “Blessed is he who considers the poor! The Lord delivers him in the day of trouble; the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land…The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illnesses thou healest all his infirmities,” we see that God heals those who consider other people, especially those in need. Jesus said, “the poor you have always with you” (Matthew 26:11). And then in Psalm 112, we read “Praise the Lord. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! … his righteousness endures forever…the Lord is gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends, who conducts his affairs with justice… He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor.” So, we see that if we’re outgoing and we’re giving to others and we’re not self-absorbed, thinking about ourselves, then healing comes to our souls even without our thinking of it. God is generous and giving. If we are generous and giving, we will be a healing to others. We could say healing is from God; healing is what I receive; and healing is what I give.
We may not make tremendous spiritual progress in our lives, all the time, but if we have a charitable heart, believing that all things are given to us so that we can share them; if we bear the burden of others and endure the weight of their demands on us, and if we love them as St. Paul instructs us in Chapter 13 of 1st Corinthians; then our health has a purpose. I’m not just healthy for me, I’m healthy for everyone. So, I could put it this way I’m healthy not for me, I’m healthy for we. The sweetness of giving to others takes away the soreness and the sourness of our own sickness.
It’s interesting that the word hospitable comes from “hospital”, which I believe is an old French word. It means the welcoming of guests! And in this sense, it’s the welcoming of those who are in most need of being taken care of, the sick. Jesus said in the 25th chapter of St. Matthew “I was sick and you visited me” (Matthew 25:36). The first thing we can say about sickness is that hospitality is a part of our health. The purpose of our health is to do God’s will. Being healthy and serving Christ is a way for me to show that Jesus Christ is alive today and is working in the world through my presence. If my relationship with other people is blessed, then I will be patient, humble, and thankful. These three great qualities will be healing to other people. The best medicine for others is the sweetness of our compassion for them. It used to be that when a medicine was particularly difficult to take, we added a sweetener to it, especially for little ones and children, so that they would not know that they were taking the medicine, because they’d only be tasting the sweetness. We are healthy in order to love God and praise God. Therefore, healing is ongoing. We are always being healed. We are taking the cure. We are not completely cured, but we are getting better all the time.
In the world, healing is a medicine in a strictly scientific sense. But, in the church, healing is more than a return to physical health. It is an experience of wholeness and wholesomeness. And this, of course, includes physical healing. But, it is much more than that. Getting better is becoming holy. It is not only our bodies that are healed, but our thoughts and feelings are also healed.
Now the other part, and the more theological part, I’m going to talk about in regard to illness is that God did not create sickness. “God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living” (Wisdom 1:13). And it also says, “but through the devil’s envy death entered the world” (Wisdom 2:24). Sickness leads to death. It is not natural to be sick or to die. That’s not the way God wanted things to be. “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail until the revealing of the children of God” (Romans 8:22). The whole world is sick because of sin; the world needs to be healed. Therefore, Christ comes to remedy this sickness. Actually, Christ is on a search and rescue mission; he had to search for Adam who was lost. And Christ found him in Hades. This is so beautifully revealed at the services of Holy Thursday, Holy Friday and Holy Saturday. Drowning in sin and sickness, Christ was our lifeguard. He jumped into the rushing waves, rescued us and brought us to shore.
It is the misuse of freedom that brings in sin and sickness; first, as has been said, it is the devil and the demons who rebelled against God. And then, it is human persons who use their freedom in the wrong way. Although God is not the cause or source of sickness and does not desire it, He can use it to bring about good. This is beautifully said in St. Basil’s Liturgy: “Preserve the good in goodness, and make the evil good by thy goodness.”
Jesus is our example of turning suffering into salvation. The Cross He bore became the crown we wear! “With His stripes we are healed” (Isiah 53:5). Similarly, people who are sick, chronically sick for no apparent reason and because they were born into a world infected by the germ of sin can be a witness to Christ’s victory over sin and death. If they carry their cross of illness in a Godly way with patience and trust and humility, they “complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24). They hear what Christ said to St. Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Sometimes we are not healed physically so that in our suffering we become a medicine to heal others.