People are overwhelmed, angry, fatigued, despairing. Suffering often feels alone or pointless. Do we believe differently? Do we believe not only that we can be helped to see life with the mercy Jesus does, but also to become doctors in the field hospital the world needs everyone who is a baptized Christian to be?
In her book “Healing: Bringing the Gift of God’s Mercy to the World” (Our Sunday Visitor, $12.69), Mary Healy encourages Catholics to get to know the Bible and tap deeper into the healing powers of the sacraments, and explains how in the most contagious ways, with a renewed reliance on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we can be “all in” with our Christianity.
In an interview with Angelus News, she talks about what the divine healing looks like in real people, the way forward out of the reawakening sex abuse crisis, and the importance of giving God permission to change our lives.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: In your book, you start by telling a story about a young man coming to better appreciate “that as followers of Christ we are called to bring the good news to others in the power of the Holy Spirit.” What does that mean exactly? What does it look like?
Mary Healy: The gospel is unlike any other message, because it has God’s own backing. It has power to actually accomplish what it announces. So, for example, when you share the gospel with those who are, say, oppressed by anxiety or guilt, and you proclaim that Jesus Christ died and rose to set them free, and they receive that message in faith, they actually experience the freedom you are talking about.
Lopez: You explain how the young man takes a leap of faith and courage and prays with someone who needs physical healing and she comes to experience “God’s love in her very body.” Does this really happen with “run-of-the-mill,” nonordained Christians?
Healy: Yes! Not every time, but remarkably often. I’ve often seen with my own eyes how generously God stands behind a person’s sincere efforts to take a risk in faith.
Recently, I gave a workshop on how to pray for healing, and I asked for a volunteer so I could walk them through a demo. A shy young woman volunteered to be the prayer minister, and an older gentleman volunteered to be the recipient. He was walking with a cane and had severe pain in his knee from loss of cartilage.
After I guided her through a simple prayer over his knee, he testified that his pain had significantly diminished … and she burst into tears, overwhelmed that God had used her in this way.
Lopez: How integral is the sacrament of reconciliation to healing? Is there any other way to experience God as Divine Healer?
Healy: The sacrament of reconciliation is often closely linked with healing, because often the Lord needs to do a work of inner healing and liberation, including the forgiveness of sins, before he does a physical healing.
There are an infinite variety of ways to experience God as Divine Healer: through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, reconciliation, and the anointing of the sick, through the exercise of charisms of healing, through the intercession of the saints, through the faith and prayers of ordinary people, and sometimes just by a sovereign act of God.
Lopez: How is the Eucharist the “medicine of immortality”?
Healy: In the Eucharist we receive Jesus, who passed through death and now is alive forever. He shares his risen, glorious life with us! So, as he himself said, whoever eats that Bread that is him will live forever.
Lopez: Can we really dare to ask for healing power?
Healy: If we truly care for those who are sick and those who desperately need a touch from God, how can we not dare? If the Lord chooses to do a miraculous healing through you, it’s not about you. It’s about the person he desires to reach through you.
There can be a false humility in the refusal to ask for healing and other gifts of the Holy Spirit, since Scripture itself exhorts us to ask.
Lopez: Can there possibly be healing in the Church for people who have been abused by priests? Why should anyone even believe this when someone like Theodore McCarrick appears unrepentant?
Healy: This is precisely why the sex abuse crisis has rocked the Church to its very foundations. The Church is meant to be the place of healing, where people can come to experience Jesus’ power to heal all the wounds, physical and spiritual, that result from living in a world that has rejected God.
But to most outsiders (and many insiders), the Church doesn’t look anything like that right now. Quite the opposite! We have entered a time of judgment, of the discipline of the Lord, in which he is purifying the Church so she can once again be what she is called to be.
The fact that Theodore McCarrick remains unrepentant and in denial about his crimes is troubling. But thankfully, no one need wait for his change of heart in order to move on. To depend on the repentance of the perpetrator is to remain in the status of a victim. We can hope that he will repent before he goes to meet God.
But in the meantime, there can and should be deep corporate repentance on the part of all those who represent the Church. What is needed today is not only upgraded safe environment policies, but weeping and mourning for the ways we have compromised with the world, prioritized power and privilege, winked at the sexual revolution, and allowed wolves to roam unchecked among the sheep.
And there needs to be a very great priority placed on humbly reaching out to those who are hurting, especially through ministries of healing like Neal Lozano’s “Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance” (Chosen Books). The Church, with all her faults and failings, remains the place of healing because she is the place where Jesus can be found.
Lopez: You close with a caution about placing limits “on what the Lord can ask of us” and write: “If we give the Lord permission to do all that he desires to do in us, he will use us to minister his healing power to the sick and the suffering, revealing his love and the presence of his glorious kingdom.” How do we give God permission … especially if we’re not precisely sure what it is for?
Healy: The Lord almost never tells us beforehand how our yes will actually play out. Otherwise, we probably wouldn’t give it! But his plan is always better than we could ever come up with. You can’t go wrong by giving the Lord a blank check.