Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Healing Power Of The Eucharist

Pope Benedict XVI carrying the Eucharist in Bavaria in 2006.

(Corpus Christi 2007 (C): This homily was given on June 10, 2007 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Corpus Christi 2007]

In his book “101 Questions and Answers on the Eucharist,” Fr. Giles Dimock touches on many aspects of the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament. (Fr. Dimock, as you will recall, led us in our parish mission this year.)

I mention his book on this feast of Corpus Christi, because in the middle of it—in questions 50 and 51, to be exact—he deals with a phenomenon that most people don’t directly associate with the Holy Eucharist, although they should: healing.

Question 50 reads, “Are there healing aspects of the Eucharist?” and question 51 reads, “Are the healings from the Eucharist physical, psychological, or spiritual?”

I’ll use his answers to those questions as the basis of my homily today.

In addressing number 50 (“Are there healing aspects of the Eucharist?”), Fr. Dimock quotes St. Teresa of Avila, who once wrote:

“And do not imagine that this most sacred food is not an excellent food for our bodies and a splendid remedy even for bodily ills! I know for a fact that it is. I know a person who suffered from serious illness and was often in the greatest pain. That pain was lifted from her when she received the Eucharist so that she felt completely well.”

She was writing there, incidentally, about herself!

Now this really shouldn’t surprise us. As Catholics we understand that the Eucharist is not a symbol! Quite oppositely, the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, present under the appearances of bread and wine.

We know that Jesus healed people when he physically walked around Palestine 2,000 years ago. So why should it surprise us if he does the very same thing today when he comes to us in the Blessed Sacrament? (Remember, it’s the same Jesus!) One of the Dominican priests who prepared Fr. Dimock for ordination had a serious disease of the throat. As he was consuming the Precious Blood at Mass one day, this priest prayed that he would be healed of his throat ailment.

And he was.

Of course, it would be a big mistake for us to think of healing only in physical terms. Not all healings are healings of the body. As St. Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5: 23, we human beings are tri-dimensional: we are body, soul and spirit. That means we can experience healings in our souls and in our spirits, even if we don’t always experience healings on the physical level.

In his book, Fr. Dimock tells this story: “One priest-counselor who had many clients installed an oratory near his office where his clients prayed before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance. He told them to gaze on the sacrament encased in the sunburst monstrance . . . and to imagine the rays of grace energizing them from the Body of the risen Lord. [The result was that] they felt less need to talk to him, less need for his help and counsel.”

His clients didn’t need his help and counsel as much, because they had already experienced some healing in their souls and in their spirits through the Eucharist during their time of adoration.

Along the same lines, Fr. Dimock speaks of a young woman he knows who led a very immoral life before she experienced a deep conversion to Jesus Christ and the Church. She told Fr. Dimock that she now loves to spend time in adoration, gazing on the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance, because she believes that as she looks at the Eucharist, Jesus is cleansing her eyes of all the unholy things she used to look at before her conversion.

If you struggle with an addiction to pornography (and many people today do—especially on the internet), I suggest that you make Eucharistic Adoration part of your recovery program. I think this woman would make the very same suggestion, based on her own personal experience.

Finally—and I would say most importantly—the Eucharist can bring healing to our soul and spirit by bringing us forgiveness for our sins—if we have the right disposition of heart!

Did you realize that?

No, the Eucharist will not bring us forgiveness for any mortal sins we may have committed (for mortal sins to be forgiven we need to go to Confession!). But if we have no mortal sins on our soul, and have true sorrow in our heart, the Eucharist can bring us forgiveness for lesser, venial sins—and it can help to strengthen our will against the temptation to sin in the future.

The Catechism puts it this way: “As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life; and this living charity wipes away venial sins. . . . By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of Christ and progress in his friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from him by mortal sin.” (CCC, 1394-95)

Let me conclude today with this thought: When Jesus walked the face of this earth in the 1st century—teaching and preaching and healing—he was objectively present. He was really there among his people.

But not everyone who saw him or heard him or touched him back then had the same experience on the subjective level!

Some of those who encountered him had faith. They were open to his words and power, and they were greatly blessed in body, soul and spirit.

But others were not open, and hence they were not blessed—like the people of his hometown of Nazareth. The Bible says they put no faith in Jesus (who obviously looked too “ordinary” to them); thus our Lord wasn’t able to perform many miracles while he was in their presence.

I’ve shared these thoughts with you this morning on the healing power of the Eucharist, because our situation is quite similar. Jesus Christ is objectively present to us in the Holy Eucharist, as he was objectively present to his fellow Jews on the streets of Palestine in the 1st century. But even though Jesus is objectively present to us in the Blessed Sacrament, we can still get little or nothing out of the experience of being in his presence! We can even receive him into our own bodies and not be changed on the subjective level!

So much depends on whether or not we have faith! So much depends on whether or not we have allowed God to give us the right attitude—the right mindset—the right disposition of heart.

My prayer is that the message of this homily will help us all to approach the Eucharist in the future with a deeper and more expectant faith, so that we will be open to ALL the healing graces God wants to give us through the Body and Blood of his Son.