Father Cantalamessa on God's Healing

Pontifical Household Preacher Views Sunday’s Gospel

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ROME, JAN. 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- In his commentary on this Sunday’s Gospel passage, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical Household, points out nature and grace as the means man has to overcome his illnesses.

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Matthew 4:18-23

«As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, «Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.» At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.»

The passage of the Gospel of the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time ends: «He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.» Approximately one-third of the Gospel is taken up by the cures wrought by Jesus in the brief period of his public life. It is impossible to eliminate these miracles, or to give them a natural explanation, without distorting the whole Gospel and making it incomprehensible.

The miracles of the Gospel present unmistakable characteristics. They are never carried out to astonish or to extol the one working them. There are some today who allow themselves to be fascinated when listening to those who seem to have certain powers of levitation, of making things appear and disappear, and other such things. To whom does this type of miracle serve, supposing that they are such? No one. Only themselves, to make disciples or money. Jesus works miracles out of compassion because he loves people. He also works miracles to help them believe. Finally, he heals to proclaim that God is the God of life and that in the end, together with death, sickness will also be overcome and there will be no more mourning or weeping.

Not only does Jesus cure, but he orders his apostles to do the same after him: «And he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal» (Luke 9:2). «As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick» (Matthew 10:7-8). We always find the two things together: preach the Gospel and cure the sick. Man has two means to try to overcome his sicknesses: nature and grace. Nature indicates the intelligence, science, medicine, technology; grace indicates direct recourse to God, through faith and prayer and the sacraments. The latter are the means that the Church has at her disposition to «cure the sick.» Evil begins when a third way is attempted: the way of magic, the one which exerts pressure on alleged occult powers of the person, which are not based either on science or faith. In this case, either we are before pure charlatanism and deceit, or worse, before the action of God’s enemy.

It is not difficult to distinguish between a true charism of healing and its falsification in magic. In the first case, the person never attributes the results obtained to his own powers, but to God; in the second, people only exhibit their own supposed «extraordinary powers.» When, because of this, one reads announcements such as: Magician of so on and so forth «succeeds where others fail, resolves problems of all kinds, has recognized extraordinary powers, casts out demons, removes the evil eye…» One must not have a minute’s doubt — they are swindlers. Jesus said that demons were cast out «with fasting and prayer,» not by taking people’s money!

However, we must ask ourselves another question. What should we think of the one who, despite everything, does not heal? That this person does not have faith or that God does not love this person? Were the persistence of illness a sign that the person has no faith, or that God does not love him, one would have to conclude that the saints were the poorest in faith and the least loved by God, because some spent their life in bed. The answer is another. God’s power does not manifest itself only in one way — eliminating evil, curing physically — but also by giving the capacity, at times even the joy, of carrying one’s cross with Christ, completing what is lacking in his sufferings. Christ has also redeemed suffering and death. The latter is no longer a sign of sin, sharing in Adam’s fault, but is an instrument of redemption.

[Original in Italian published by Famiglia Cristiana. Translation by ZENIT].

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