God heals the restless and thirsty human heart, not as a skillful physician who patches up damaged tissue, but as the Divine Lover whose gift of himself communicates his own divine life to us, which is itself restorative, recreative, and wondrous beyond words.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
9 October 2014
Each and every person in the world is not only in need of healing but craves it. Some have fallen ill or are injured and long for physical healing; others yearn for emotional healing; still others desire relational healing. We could even say that health—meaning complete physical and psychological well-being and vitality—is a natural human inclination. We desire not merely to stay alive but to really live. And we want to live in healthy relationship with others. Consequently, we want peace and happiness, and we intuitively understand healing and health to be an integral part of the package.
Perhaps some are so encased in a rosy world that they are unaware of the need for healing. This moment, however, will soon pass. Health ebbs, youth wanes, tragedy strikes, peace turns to apprehension and comfort to affliction. Healing is something everyone seeks sooner or later. In fact, those who are oblivious to their need for healing are the very people who are most in need of it.
If those who are confidently “healthy” presently, however they may choose to define the word, will reflect on the fleeting nature of this present life along with its unpredictability, instability, and insecurity, it will soon become apparent that a state of permanent health is more than simply desirable because without it everything will soon be lost. The only consolation to such a dreary future is the potential for a state of existence in which any type of ill-health, whether physiological or psychological, tragedy and death and so on, is no longer a threat because it is an impossibility.
Imagine a life in which the question of physical healing no longer applies, not ever, because complete physical health is permanent? Who would not desire that type of life? Actually, it is one of the things we hope for through faith in Christ and his promise of the general resurrection from the dead, an event in which those who love God will be raised in Christ and receive an incorruptible and glorified body that will be reunited to their spiritual soul.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains what the resurrection is, and what it means for us (Articles 997-999):
What is “rising”? In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection.
Who will rise? All the dead will rise, “those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment” (Jn 5:29; cf. Dan 12:2.).
How? Christ is raised with his own body: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself” (Lk 24:39); but he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, “all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear,” but Christ “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body,” into a “spiritual body” (Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 801; Phil 3:21; 1 Cor 15:44.).
An incorruptible body is highly appealing, yes, but we want more. If we examine the mysterious depths of our heart, we will notice that lasting physical health, as wonderful as it sounds, would fall short of fully completing us. While it might bring us natural happiness, it would not convey perfect happiness because that level of happiness is more than, beyond and above, physical health. That we “want to live forever” does not mean a desire for an eternity of being weighed down by our present burdens, with all the relational issues and misunderstandings and tension and so forth, but rather an eternity of delightful human fulfillment lived out in supernaturally infused bliss and joy.
We can here speak briefly about spiritual healing. Whether conscious of such a need or not, we thirst for spiritual health as well. For example, in reflecting on sins and failures, we arrive at a desire for the healing balm of forgiveness that only God can offer. In looking interiorly, we discover we are not yet spiritually complete, totally filled, so to speak, because we crave something more than we currently possess, something external to ourselves that is not natural but supernatural. Over the course of the centuries, this yearning has been described in countless ways: a hole in the human heart; an interior emptiness; an irrepressible sense of incompleteness; discontentment; and so forth.
We want to be entirely complete, healthy, filled with a vitality of both body and spirit. We want to be happy, not partially but fully and perfectly, not for a time but forever and permanently. We thirst to live a fully human life of human fulfillment. But from where does such a thirst originate? Is it something we simply dream up, some flight of a fanciful imagination? Some might ask, is this irrepressible urge some kind of cruel trick? Something infused into our being, an unquenchable burning coal, enfolded into the very ground of our existence for no other reason than to drive us to madness?
Perhaps this inner craving for God is proof against the notion of material evolution. It is difficult to imagine how some fluke in the process of natural selection or cellular mutation is responsible for this human thirst for what is naturally unobtainable. In other words, how is it that a natural process of development results in a craving for what nature cannot provide? Did organisms self-design (or self-inflict) an unachievable goal into their being? That a material organism could evolve, without divine direction, so as to crave what is divine and invisible, transcendent and infinite and immaterial, is nonsense. Time is not to blame for humankind’s desire for God; it is God who, creating us for the reception of his divine love, is responsible for making man for himself.
We seek God because God made us for himself, and calls us to embark upon a fantastic journey into the horizon of the infinite Other who is Love. Our constant desire for such a lofty goal is expressed by the Psalmist with these meaningful words:
“O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
Let us return again to the last sentence in the excerpt from the Catechism above: Christ “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body,” into a “spiritual body” (CCC 999). That promise extends much further than we might gather at first glance. God’s plan for his children far exceeds an eternity of physical fitness! Christ “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body.” What does that mean?
First of all, God sent his Son into the world in order to “save us by reconciling us with God” (CCC 457), “so that we might know God’s love” (CCC 458), “to be our model of holiness” (CCC 459), and to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (CCC 460). The Son of God assumed human flesh and became man so that man may share in the divine nature of God. Through faith in Christ and in virtue of our baptism, we are made adopted sons and daughters of God in the Son, members of the divine family, and thus are destined to participate in the very divine life of God!
His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature. (2 Pet 1:3-4)
God did not insert this inner thirst within us to drive us to madness. On the contrary, God created us out of a superabundance of love and, by instilling in us a desire for himself, calls us to a life immersed forever in his infinite, superabundant and indescribable love. We are created to become like Christ, to live forever in compete human fullness and fullness of human life lived out in eternal communion with the Father.
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. (1 Jn 3:1-2)
Therefore whatever our circumstance happens to be, illness or injury, pain or anxiety or sadness, in the resurrection we will be completely and totally healed forever, not simply physically but bodily and spiritually. Those who love Christ get healed. Totally. Always. It is only a matter of time. And more than that, God’s wondrous plan of salvation includes not simply healing but restoration and re-creation as we become like God and see him as he is.
God, then, heals the restless and thirsty human heart, not as a skillful physician who patches up damaged tissue, but as the Divine Lover whose gift of himself communicates his own divine life to us, which is itself restorative, recreative, and wondrous beyond words.
O the depths of Divine Love!
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Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.