A recent discussion on my personal Facebook page feat my good friend Stephanie Richer (who really began the thread or conversation herself on her own page) revolved around certain people in our country and culture who label themselves “faith healers” and who have built up quite a following over the years. One well-known such “healer” has a national television program that is aired on a popular evangelical network and on many independent Christian television stations around the country. His “healing crusades” are certainly charismatic, but very often,many of the people who attend them and claim to be “healed” or “cured” of their illnesses are not cured at all. It is fair to say that many of the people who attend some of the services of some self-proclaimed “faith healers” may be looking for a “quick fix” to their illnesses or whatever may ail them. I would humbly submit that faith in God’s healing power should never equate to faith in an individual man’s power to heal us, or in that person alone to be some personal conduit for God’s healing. This does not negate in any way the reality that there absolutely is such a thing as Divine healing and that the Lord Jesus did heal people miraculously and still does so today. After all, very often, miraculous healings are seen as proof by the Church of the heavenly intercession of potential saints.
The Church places great stock in the power of God to heal us of our afflictions, which is why we have the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick where the priest prays, in part:
Through this holy anointing
may the Lord in his love and mercy
help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit.
May the Lord who frees you from sin
save you and raise you up.
However, the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, even though it comes to us directly from Christ, has never been intended as a guarantee that someone will be cured. Like all sacraments, the Anointing of the Sick is an outward sign instituted by Christ to confer grace on the person who receives it, and that grace will often be spiritual even moreso than physical graces.
There are those Christians, whether clergy or laypeople, who have been given the Gift of Healing (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:8-9, 12:30), and that means that in a very real sense we can say that they are a “faith healer” if they have this very special gift, because that means that the Holy Spirit can use them to bring God’s healing power to the sick in a special way. However, it has been my limited experience that people who truly claim to have been given this gift do not seek to draw attention to themselves or to the ministry they might exercise through this healing gift, in fact, they often seek to do quite the opposite because they respect that the power to heal and save belongs to God, not to them, and they seek no notoriety because God might have granted them the grace of a very rare spiritual gift, but often seek to distance themselves from any publicity at all. That is because someone who has truly been given the Gift of Healing and understands that it, like all spiritual gifts, comes from the Holy Spirit, and that all of the glory for any mighty work that God might do in working through such a person belongs to God alone.
People who mistakenly place their faith in a “faith healer” to physically heal them rather than in God to provide for them might begin to doubt God’s mercy and wonder why they are not healed if physical healing does not come to them. Many people have forgotten the concept of redemptive suffering, or that there is virtue in suffering for the sake of others as Jesus did for us. Suffering has a very real purpose. Over the years, some people have been bold enough to ask me how I cope with my disability each day. I’d be lying if I said that it was easy merely because I have gotten used to it over the years, and the older I have gotten, the more daily pain that I now experience as part of my daily routine. I know that I experience all kinds of things that others might see as a hardship that would be difficult to explain to others, but I have also learned that there are so many other people who are far worse off than I am. I have a roof over my head, shoes on my feet, property that belongs to our family, and family and friends who love us and look out for us and our well-being.
I have learned to offer my daily pains, sufferings, trials, and difficulties in prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the reparation of my own sins and the sins of the whole world. I have learned to offer my pain and trial as a daily prayer for those who are sick or disabled and who do not have, as I do, people around them to look out for them, ask after them, and see to their needs-often quite voluntarily. I especially remember to offer my pains up for those who might be in far worse physical shape than myself. Most of all, I offer in prayer my meager sufferings up for those people, wherever they might be, who do not have anyone to pray for them.
In saying this, I’m not saying to those who are sick or who have a chronic illness or a disability “do not pray for healing.” Quite the contrary, Jesus Christ is truly the Divine Physician and the Great Healer, so asking for healing from the Healer is not unreasonable, but it might be helpful to remember that if we ask for healing, the healing that the Holy Spirit may bring us may be something other or more than the physical healing that some might expect. If you are reading this and you are praying for healing, I will add you to my own prayer list, but remember that there is no need to suffer without purpose. Offer It Up…offer up whatever sufferings you might have for the good of others, the salvation of souls, and the growth of Holy Mother Church.