In my many years of life as a Daughter of St. Paul, the Lord has led me not only on my own journey of healing and transformation, but has also allowed me to accompany many others on their journeys as companion, spiritual guide, sister, and friend. This has been a wonderful gift, and I continue to marvel and give thanks as I watch how even today—just as in Gospel times—anyone who draws near to the Lord and touches him experiences healing. There is power in his presence and in his name. He is Jesus, our Savior; Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Our culture is drawing more and more away from God while the need for healing is increasing. Where will we find healing, if not in the triune God who created and redeemed us? Yes, we can find healing for our bodies in doctors and the medical sciences. We can find at least some healing for our psyches and troubled minds from professionals. But where do we find healing and wholeness for our spirits, our souls, our hearts, when these have been abused and wounded? Who will heal our heart, if not he who created it? And who can heal the wounds of our spirit, if not he who let himself be wounded for our salvation?
Even though everyone’s story of woundedness and healing is unique and personal, I have noticed there are some common denominators in this journey, and I think these are what make up what I would like to call a “spirituality of healing.”
First, I want to define the words I use: when I say spirituality, I mean one’s way of relating to God and fulfilling his will; the purpose for which we were created; our way of living in Jesus Christ and identifying ourselves with him; how we let the Spirit of God sanctify and guide our lives. Spirituality embraces the whole person: body and soul, mind, will, heart, and imagination, and so it is never absolutely the same for each and every one of us. Grace builds on nature.
With the word healing I mean both wholeness and holiness—restoration to that fullness of life that Jesus came to bring. In the Gospel we read that Jesus went about teaching and healing every disease and sickness (cf. Mt 9:35), for there were many types of healing: from sickness, from demons, from sin, from abuse.
What do I mean then by spirituality of healing? I mean a spirituality that focuses on Jesus and relates to him as the Divine Physician, who heals and transforms our wounds into channels of grace for ourselves and for others, leading us to wholeness and fullness of life. This is a definition that needs to be unpacked.
In the Gospels we find the greatest common denominator of all is faith, trust in the power of God to heal, and trust that he wants to heal me. Faith is the one condition that Jesus asked of those he healed. Remember the father who expressed doubt that Jesus could heal his son? Jesus’ response was, “If you can? All things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23). Recall the story of the leper who said, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” This man believed! And Jesus stretches out his hand and says, “I do choose. Be made clean.” (cf. Lk 5:12-13). The hemorrhaging woman was certain that if she touched the cloak of Jesus she would be healed (cf. Mk 25-34) and she was; because of the Canaanite mother's persistent and humble faith, her daughter was healed without even being present, (Mt 15:21-28).
The healings we read of in Scripture aren't just physical: they’re spiritual and emotional as well. Matthew says explicitly that Jesus healed every ill (Mt 4:23-24); there’s no wound God cannot heal. This isn’t a license for neglecting the medical or professional care we need, but a call to place our trust in the Lord who knows our needs, wants to heal us, and has the power to do so.
There are other elements that are part of this healing spirituality which we’ll look at in this column, such as how we nurture and live our relationship with Jesus the Divine Physician. We’ll also hear real-life stories of those who are on a journey of healing and wholeness. Right now, though, I’d just like to invite you to read some of the healing stories found in sacred scripture and let them strengthen your hope and nourish your faith. Jesus is, and remains, Emmanuel, God-with-us.
Sr. Mary Leonora, FSP