Each issue carries an imprimatur from
the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Reprinting prohibited
Gods Desire for Healing
A story that has made its way into my e-mail
inbox is entitled “God’s Boxes.” In this story,
God gives a person two boxes—a black one to
hold life’s sorrows and a gold one to hold life’s
joys. Over time, the gold box grows heavier
while the black box remains the same. A look
into the black box reveals a hole in the bottom.
When God is shown the hole and is asked where
the sorrows are, God replies, “My child, they’re
all with me.” This story serves as a reminder of
God’s tender love and mercy. God gives the gold
box to help us count our blessings. The black
box is a means of sharing our troubles with God
and, in doing so, letting them go.
The sorrow of sin
One source of sorrow is our sinfulness. Whether
it’s a pattern of sinful behaviors, an action left
undone or a word left unsaid, a wrong we have
committed or an attitude that separates us from
God or others, our sin weighs heavily on us.
We read of God’s mercy and compassion in
the pages of Scripture. It is God’s mercy that
makes our repentance and the forgiveness of
sins possible (see U.S. Catholic Catechism for
Adults, p. 235). Only God can forgive our sins,
and the Church serves as an instrument of God’s
forgiveness, particularly in the Sacrament of
Penance and Reconciliation.
My first teaching experience was as a
college student, serving as a catechist in
a parish religious education program. I
accepted the position of mid-year
replacement for a class of third-graders.
I soon learned that I’d be helping
prepare the children to celebrate First
Reconciliation and that I was taking on
a class in which there had been discipline
problems. The discipline concerns
didn’t bother me nearly as much
as did the charge to prepare these children
to celebrate Reconciliation. This
was not a sacrament with which I was
at all comfortable at the time.
I had had a “bad experience” of
this sacrament at a high school retreat.
I’m sure that poor scheduling contributed
to this since our Reconciliation
service began after midnight. My confessor
was a grumpy, elderly and
(understandably) tired priest. The experience
was far from the celebration of
God’s love and forgiveness that I now
had agreed to teach these children about.
Walking the walk
I had a personal challenge before me.
It wasn’t so much what I’d be teaching—personally I knew of God’s great
love and forgiveness. The hard part
involved teaching how to celebrate and
why we needed this sacrament I was
I was determined to “walk the
walk”—so I committed to tackle my
issues and move beyond that one bad
experience. I spoke about my challenge
to a campus priest, who walked me
through a much more positive experience—
a celebration of God’s desire for
healing and reconciliation. I then felt
good about helping my students to
experience this sacrament as something
to celebrate. I even went back to
teach third grade again the next year!
God is at work
While our society downplays sin—consider the acceptance of immoral
behavior in our movies, television
shows and music—humans are wired
to instinctively recognize it. Sin weakens
our relationship with God and others.
Sin also harms our inner life. It is
through the Sacrament of Reconciliation
that God reaches out to us to reconcile
us with him and the Church.
Our celebration of Reconciliation
is more about God’s action (reconciliation)
than it is about our own (confession),
thus the move to using the word
Reconciliation in recent years. There are
some necessary actions and attitudes
on our part though. These begin with
conversion—a change of heart and
change in action made possible by
Our actions and attitudes flow
from our conversion. They are found
in the common elements of the rites of
this sacrament. These elements are 1)
contrition—to be forgiven we must be
sorry; 2) confession—by confessing
our sins to a priest, who represents
Christ and the Church, we face our
failings more honestly and accept
responsibility for them; 3) absolution—the priest, using the power of
Christ entrusted to the Church, sets us
free from sin; and 4) satisfaction or
penance—we show our intention to
change by repairing the damage our
sin has caused.
Celebrating with others
My more recent experiences of Reconciliation
are in communal services at
my parish. I usually celebrate this
sacrament during Lent. Our pastor
invites several other priests to hear the
individual confessions. It is a liturgy
with songs, Scripture and group prayer.
These services feel more like celebrations
to me since other members of my
community are present. Plus, it’s pretty
powerful to join with other sinners,
asking for God’s forgiveness and seeking
reconciliation with God and the
Church. After all, I know that my sin
affects others, so it’s good to celebrate
God’s forgiveness with others. It’s also
good to realize that I’m not the only
one in my community who is burdened
by personal sin.
This sacrament, based in Jesus’
words and actions, is an important
mission of the Church. It helps us stay
close to the truth that we cannot live
without God (USCCA, p. 243).
Recognizing our need for God is a
characteristic of those who are “poor
in spirit.” Jesus calls those who are
poor in spirit “blessed” in the first of
the Beatitudes and adds, “theirs is the
kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3).
The sorrow of sickness
We cannot live without God in our sinfulness,
nor can we live without God in
our suffering from illness. A second
sacrament that celebrates God’s compassion
and desire for healing is the
Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
This is another sacrament with
which many people are uncomfortable—
in large part because of its former
use only at the time of death.
When we look to Scripture to learn
about Jesus’ healing ministry, we find
many examples of Jesus healing people
who weren’t dying from their afflictions.
The Church has changed this
sacrament to better reflect God’s desire
for our physical and spiritual healing
whenever we are suffering. Jesus came to heal the whole person—body and soul—and this sacrament
expresses that. It is best celebrated within
the community of parish or family
since no one should face infirmity without
the consolation and care of others.
God’s presence, care
Before surgery a few years ago, I asked
to celebrate this sacrament. The rite was
beautiful and meaningful in its simplicity.
The priest laid his hands on my head,
generously anointed my palms and forehead
with the oil of the sick and prayed
for my healing. The experience enabled
me to face my upcoming surgery with the
confidence of God’s presence and care.
We often praise God for his mercy. The
Latin word for mercy is misericordia, a
combination of miseria (misery) and cor (heart). It literally means a “heart filled
with misery.” God’s desire for healing
undoubtedly comes from his great
mercy as he joins in our misery.
We are merciful when we join in the
misery of another. Whether we care for a
sick loved one, serve as a health-care
worker, ask for forgiveness from someone
we have wronged or offer forgiveness
to those who have harmed us, we
share in the healing ministry of Christ as
members of his body. May God be
praised for his great kindness and mercy!
The theme of this article is drawn from Ch. 18 and 19 of the
United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (pp. 233-259).
Next: Christ’s Love and God’s Law
The article “God’s Desire for Healing” makes a statement about God that
some people have difficulty reconciling with the realities of their lives
and the larger world situation. What experiences of God’s healing have you
had? How do you see God’s desire for healing at work in the world?
When have you been challenged to “walk the walk” of your Christian
discipleship? What was required of you? How did your faith grow?
How do you and your community participate in the healing ministry of
Christ and the Church? What more can you do?