Healing the Sick: Restoring Their Humanity

Our culture is so steeped in individualism that we have a hard time seeing the communal nature of illness.  Yes, we know that families and friends are also affected by the serious illness of someone, but still we think about the individual as really being the person who is suffering.  The prayers of healing in the church, however, see the person as being part of the Body of Christ, not as an isolated individual.  Healing is not just something that happens to the person alone, but also restores the person  to life in the Church.

“We pray, first of all, for physical healing. But that is not the most important thing. We pray also for spiritual healing and forgiveness, without which any physical healing is meaningless. As part of the spiritual healing, we pray for the reintegration of the ailing persons into the body of the Church, into fullness of life, whatever the ultimate course of the physical disease. This is because the ultimate aim of Christian healing is nothing less than the restoration of full communion with God, which is the aim of all human existence. The ultimate goal is the kingdom of God – that is the meaning of salvation.” (Paul Meyendorff, The Anointing of the Sick, pp 77-78)

Healing is about communion and the Kingdom of God.   It is about restoring the full humanity of person so that they my fully participate in human society.   The individual is healed not to continue some solo existence independent of everyone else but rather to resume or continue a life of interdependence with all other members of the Church.  Illness comes upon anyone of us even thought we are a member of the Body of Christ.  Illness may disrupt our communion with the rest of the Body.  We also are healed as part of that Body.  Healing enables each member to continue actively participating in the Church for the  health of the Body of Chrst as well as for the health of every member.   We are members one of another, sharing a common human nature and thus both sickness and health involve our unity with the rest of the Church.  Healing restores us to living in the community and to sharing our common humanity with all who are healed by Christ.

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