There are some Evangelical sects out there who shoot at the Catholic Church for teaching that suffering is useful in the process of salvation. We’re blamed for ‘not believing in healing’.
It’s worth taking a moment to clarify the Catholic position. First of all, the Catholic Church has always believed in the healing ministry. That ministry is exercised in a multitude of different ways, through the medical profession, through counseling, through the ministry of the sacraments. There is a vast literature on the Catholic approach to healing and the whole range of healing from healing of the memories and inner healing to the forgiveness of sins and the interaction of the mind, body and spirit in healing. One aspect of this is what some recognize as ‘the healing ministry’ within the renewal or charismatic wing of the church. Catholics endorse this kind of healing too, but recognize that it is but one of a whole range of healing ministries that the Church is called to by Christ the Lord, and just like some people are called to be nurses and doctors, so some are called to exercise a healing gift in other ways. One of these may be through ‘faith healing’.
Part of a full and coherent healing ministry is to have an answer and a theology for those who are not healed through prayer. Happily, the New Testament has a lot to say about the suffering of Christians. In fact, suffering seems to be written into the plotline from the very beginning. In all three synoptic gospels Jesus says several times that if we would be his disciple we must take up our cross and follow him. In other other words, to be like Christ, we must share in his sufferings.
Now this is not just a theme in a few verses in the gospels. Indeed, it is laced through the entire New Testament. So St Paul says, “We rejoice in our sufferings for we know they produce perseverence” “We are co-heirs with Christ if we share in his sufferings.” “I want to know the resurrection of Christ and have a share in his sufferings.” “I rejoice that you share in the sufferings of Christ so that you may also share in his glory.”
It gets deeper and stranger. At one point St Paul says, “I rejoice in your sufferings for I have filled up in my flesh what is lacking in the cross of Christ.” So suffering is not only redemptive for us, but through it we may share in Christ’s own redemptive work in the world. It sounds an awful lot like the old Catholic word of encouragement to those suffering, “Well, offer it up.”
It seems that St Paul was even ascetic in his practices for he said, “I beat my body to make it my slave that I might not lose the prize.” Furthermore, it is possible that he was the first stigmatic like St Francis and Padre Pio after him for he said, “I bear in my body the marks of Christ.”
Catholics do believe in healing, but we also have a Biblical answer for those who suffer in Christ. According to the Bible, the suffering we endure is our way to ‘take up our cross and be Christ’s disciple.’ The suffering produces perseverance. Suffering also helps us to mysteriously identify with the passion of Christ, and according to the New Testament, this is necessary if we expect to share in the resurrection and glory of Christ.
What I don’t understand is that Pentecostal Evangelicals (who are otherwise such admirably Bible-based Christians) miss this one, but the Catholics (who are supposed to be ignorant of the Bible) seem pretty much on target.
Fits nicely with today’s readings which you actually paraphrase here. I think many Protestant complaints are unthinking reflexive opposition proposed after rejecting Catholicism as an excuse.Today we also had the famous lines about faith without works. How can anyone hold to “Sola Fide” when adherence to “Sola Scriptura” directly contradicts it? I think it’s willful blindness in some and lassitude in others.
Powerful painting of the crucifixion but the use of the sedile is purely artistic license. The Romans didn’t bother with it.
The Catholic model for healing, I believe, comes through The Sacraments – the natural growth of Jesus’ own ministry. Once we start believing in The Real Presence, in the power of confession and of the power invested in our priests to give absolution; in the salvation of our baptism and our confirmation; in the power of our marriage vows or our holy orders vows, or the sacrament of the sick, anything is possible.
I believe in both–miraculous healings and embracing the suffering.Jesus worked a healing miracle through me once that astounded me to the core, I still entertain doubts. So ask boldly! Our saint stories include many healing miracles and healers, like St. Peregrine’s cancerous leg, and St. Rita of Cascia practicing medicine.But Jesus also taught us to love God’s will as more precious than anything to us in our lives. He teaches us “Thy will be done” in the Lord’s Prayer and demonstrates it for us in the Agony of the Garden.I have had occasion to learn the Gospel of Suffering in my life, I’ve blogged about it at my blog, the Apostolic Anchoress.http://apostolicanchoress.blogspot.com/2007/06/saw-my-gp-today-to-get-first-injection.htmlhttp://apostolicanchoress.blogspot.com/2007/06/agony-in-garden.htmlhttp://apostolicanchoress.blogspot.com/2007/06/clinic-visitturning-around-icky-day.htmlhttp://apostolicanchoress.blogspot.com/2007/06/my-three-cancers.htmlhttp://apostolicanchoress.blogspot.com/2007/06/trust-in-divine-providence-and-st.htmlMostly from June and July of last year. Once treatment started, I didn’t feel much like doing anything including blogging. I just maintained my peace and joy and endurance.I’ve had the occasion to teach many people about the redemptive value of suffering, Col 1:24a, and then ask them for their prayer petitions to add to my book. Don’t waste suffering. Use it as an act of charity and powerful prayer for others. Offer it up!