Jesus was a healer: he cured the lame, the blind, and the deaf. He raised the dead to life. And healing, accordingly, has been associated with his followers from their very beginning. The Acts of the Apostles is filled with accounts of healing miracles via the earliest evangelists.
Up and down the centuries saints and holy people have been described as miraculous healers. For example, see Bernadette of Lourdes, who uncovered a spring which, for the last century and a half, has been a source of healing for the world. Even to the present day we have healers in our churches.
Why has this gift been given to the Church? Undoubtedly so as to carry on the work of Christ and to help with evangelization.
Do many people have it? Obviously not, although some people in the church do indeed have the gift of physical healing. It is, as Paul indicates, a sign gift; its purpose is to signal in a remarkable way the mysterious power of God. Count me suspicious of those who go on television with this supposed capacity, but count me deeply appreciative of those dedicated souls who do genuinely have this charism of physical healing.
Does it mean that Catholics ought to eschew ordinary medicine and seek this kind of healing? Obviously not. God loves to work through secondary causes like doctors, medicines, and nurses. Ought we to rely on this gift in a presumptuous way? No, but sometimes it is called for.
Faith, prayer, and an acceptance of God’s will are necessary for this gift. But it can be blocked. What can prevent it? Perhaps an enlightened rationalism that simply rules it out of court—an excessive, unhealthy skepticism.
But perhaps this gift is given more broadly if we construe it along psychological and spiritual lines.
Are you the kind of person who heals others, who brings calm and peace, who soothes troubled psyches and spirits? If so, how generously are you putting this gift to the service of others?
Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.