God’s gift of healing, given to all of us
Bishop Jacobs says the spiritual gift of healing is not limited to medical professionals . . .
I am happy to start off this new Faith Matters column for Legatus magazine. I’ll focus on the gift of healing, not the natural gift or the gift that comes from years of practice, but the spiritual gift from God.
Though this gift of healing is not limited to those in the medical profession, it’s definitely one that those who are practicing medicine can truly exercise as part of their service to their patients.
In his ministry — not as a professional doctor, but as a minister to people — Jesus frequently exercised this gift in his humanity. He told his disciples to do what he did. They in turn, in their humanity, through the power of the Holy Spirit, laid hands on the sick and prayed in the name of Jesus for their healing. This gift of healing has continued in the life of the Church over the centuries.
It’s this gift that I want to reflect on. As I mentioned, there is a natural, human gift of healing and a spiritual gift of healing. They are not in opposition. Both are given by God for the benefit of his people. There are times when the natural gift is sufficient to care for the immediate need of the patient. But there are other times that God desires us to exercise the spiritual gift of healing both for the good of the patient and His greater glory.
What is needed is the exercise of another gift: discernment. This enables us to know what is needed in the current situation. Those in the medical profession have many opportunities to exercise this spiritual gift of healing because of their personal contact with those who are sick. It can be done with the patient’s consent or just quietly as the doctor examines the person.
What would happen if, as a Catholic physician, you would pray before seeing a patient and pray silently for wisdom and discernment while examining the person? Is it possible for you to have a greater insight into the situation? What would happen if, after natural remedies do not seem to make a difference, you would ask the patient if they would allow you to pray over them asking God’s healing love to minister to them as well?
This is the additional gift Catholic health care can offer for the patient’s benefit. Obviously, we must be always respectful to the patient, but always ready to acknowledge that God desires to minister to the patient in his great love and healing. Doctors can bring this witness to the medical world, which may help to influence the medical culture. But again, I want to emphasize that we must always be respectful and not impose something upon them. There is nothing wrong with praying for them without them knowing that you’re doing it.
This spiritual gift of healing is not limited to the medical profession. As individuals, we often find members of our family having serious medical problems which the doctors are having a hard time alleviating. While not discontinuing medical treatment, we have the opportunity to “soak” the person in God’s healing love.
There are many testimonies of dramatic healings taking place through people, in faith, praying over another through the laying on of hands, invoking the healing power of God to make a difference in the person’s condition. (Click for a related story of miraculous healing.) God calls us to be visible witnesses and instruments of his healing power.
This gift is not limited to only a few people. All of us, by virtue of the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, have been granted this and other gifts of the Holy Spirit. What is lacking many times is the ability to step out in faith and exercise this gift for the other.
An additional thought: We may not see the healing, but many times other healings are taking place, according to the will of God for the person. We may pray for a person’s physical healing of cancer, but God may desire, through our prayer, the healing of a spiritual cancer within the person — namely sin, which is eternally deadly. We are not the healer, only the instrument. God is the healer of body and soul. He calls us to share in his healing ministry through prayer, faith and the laying on of hands for the sick.
BISHOP SAM JACOBS is the bishop emeritus of the Houma-Thibodaux diocese. He has served as Legatus’ international chaplain since 2009.