Christian Idea of Health

Naaman the Syrian leper came looking for healing, for some kind of Fountain of Youth, to cleanse his corrupted flesh. The prophet Elisha healed him.  And the Lord Jesus healed the ten lepers who begged for His pity. They, too, had sought the “Fountain of Youth,” a way back to the perfect health of the Garden of Eden. [Spanish]

Christ came to heal.  He wills our health. God wills our true health, the health that consists in soundness of soul, as well as soundness of body.

We modern Americans obsess about our health. We, too, seek the Fountain of Youth. We chase it desperately, frantically. We live in abject fear of old age, pain, and death.

jp_iiBut do we really even understand what the word “health” means? Pope St. John Paul II put it like this:  “If we consider life as a mere consumer good, we reach a sort of cult of the body and a hedonistic quest for physical fitness.”

We human beings strive, with all our intelligence and scientific skill, to combat sickness and the suffering that goes with it.  Many people dedicate their lives to healthcare.  I daresay quite a few people reading this have given their lives to the work of healthcare.

But Jesus Christ alone teaches us what health really is. Jesus Christ is Himself the source of life and the Healer of the human race. His Body and Blood are the greatest and most important of all medicines. The Blessed Sacrament of the altar is the medicine of immortality.

Let’s consider Jesus Christ’s “health.” It begins with His interior communion with the will of the Father. Jesus declared that His life comes from the Father.  So: true health begins with this fundamental fact of our existence. We receive ourselves as a gift. From God. Almighty God gives us our life. If I imagine that health = total control of myself, my body, my powers, according to my will—well, then I have actually begun to understand health in a very unhealthy way.

Now, Lord Jesus lived a wholesome life, exercised temperance and self-control, worked steadily, kept His mind elevated, cultivated good friendships, knew how to relax. Like all His Jewish contemporaries, Jesus never “went to the gym.” For good reason. The ancient Greeks invented gyms, so the ancient Jews hated them. But our Lord nonetheless did the strenuous exercise we associate with a ‘fitness regimen.’ We can reasonably estimate that He walked an average of 20-25 miles per week through the course of His pilgrim life.

So: Jesus ‘stayed fit.’ He ate right and had a ‘healthy lifestyle’ for most of His time on earth. But there’s more: the God-man ultimately embraced human pain, suffering, and death. In fact, He became man for that precise reason: to suffer and die.

Rod of AsclepiusWhen we base our concept of health on Jesus Christ, a whole new horizon opens up for us.  We perceive that bodily suffering is not the absolute evil. And bodily suffering is not meaningless or a waste. Again, Pope St. John Paul II:

In celebrating the Eucharist, Christians proclaim and share in the sacrifice of Christ, for ‘by His wounds, we have been healed.’ Christians, uniting themselves with Christ, preserve in their own sufferings a very special particle of the infinite treasure of the world’s redemption, and can share that treasure with others. Imitating Jesus has led saints and simple believers to turn their illnesses and pain into a source of purification and salvation.

Modern medical science has benefited the human race enormously. But science cannot by itself explain the fundamental reason why sickness exists. Medicine can succeed in curing particular illnesses by accurately diagnosing them.  But if the question is: Why do we human beings get sick at all? “Germs” is not the whole answer.

We get sick, and we die, because of the Fall. In the beginning, we fell away from God and lost His grace, which is our true health. We walked away from the Fountain of Youth. Doesn’t mean that any particular individual illness of any particular individual person comes as a punishment for particular sins. No. What it means is: In the beginning, God offered us, the human race, paradise and immortality. But we refused the gift, out of pride.

We disobeyed because Satan tempted us. But God knows better than Satan. The sickness and suffering that we experience because of Original Sin can involve agonizing deprivations. But, on the cross, the Lord turned all those agonizing deprivations into the doorway back to paradise.

Ghent Altarpiece Adoration of the Lamb

“Amen, amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Lord Jesus said those words to the sinner who begged for Christ’s mercy–even as they both suffered together on their crosses. “You will be with me in paradise.” The suffering Christ speaks these words to the suffering sinner.

We cannot base our idea of “health” on anything other than our hope for that paradise that Jesus promised us at that moment. The paradise of true and complete communion with God. The paradise of an everlasting Eden. Our idea of health must embrace the cross of the Christ Who suffered. Because His Cross is the only way that truly leads to the Fountain of Youth.

A Motto Worth Trying to Live By + “Transgender”

Our prayers should not be long and tedious but short, earnest, and frequent. –St. Ambrose

…The other day, someone asked our Holy Father this question:

I would like to ask you, what would you say to someone who has struggled with their sexuality for years and feels that there is truly a problem of biology, that his aspect doesn’t correspond to what he or she feels is their sexual identity?

Can’t say I fully understand the question.  Not sure what “aspect” means here.

human_male_karyotpe_high_resolution_-_xy_chromosome_croppedBut I would like to point out: the Catholic position is that doctors should not lie to people. Medical science does not have the power to control everything.  When surgeons and biochemists get delusions of grandeur, it only confuses and misleads people who already have a lot to suffer.

Can an abortion make it like there never was a baby?  No.

Can artificial contraception completely remove the fact that sex is for making babies?  No.

Can any medical intervention render homosexual acts fruitful?  No.

Can surgeries and pills change a man or boy, whose every cell has XY chromosomes, into a woman or a girlOr a woman or girl, whose every cell has XX chromosomes, into a man or a boy? No.

People who struggle need friends who won’t tell them lies, especially lies about what doctors can really accomplish with the limited tools at their disposal.

“Being healthy” has to start with the truth.  The truth is that there is much more to us human beings than meets the eye, much more about us that science doesn’t understand (as opposed to the little bit that it does understand).  All the so-called “medical” procedures listed above actually involve grotesque acts of violence–profoundly unhealthy acts of violence.

Better to go to church and pray to the good God Who made us the men and women that we are.

The Paragon of Health

Couple of clear facts:

1. Our bodily and mental health can be attacked, harmed, even ruined by disease. Good, wholesome, sound, vigorous life: obviously, that’s what we are made for. But on this fallen earth, a battle constantly rages between health and all the forces that jeopardize it.

2. Almighty God wills our health and well-being. He became man and healed sick people. He embraced the ultimate threat to bodily health, namely death, so as to overcome its power. God made man has Personally attained permanent bodily and mental health in heaven. He give us the hope of attaining it, too, when the battle of this pilgrim life is over.

Okay, so these two facts are clear. Where we can encounter controversy, however, is in the area of: In what, exactly, does health consist?

Rod of AsclepiusSome distinctions are easy, like: It is better not to have the flu than to have it. But sometimes we cannot distinguish between health and disease so easily.

For instance: Is being able to get pregnant a disease? Doesn’t seem like it is. But apparently more women take pills for it than for anything else. Is getting old a disease? Well, a lot of people have surgery to try to counteract it.

Is feeling guilty a psychological disease? Maybe sometimes it it. But, of course, more often than not I feel guilty because I am guilty of something.

See what I mean? Defining “healthy” can sometimes involve a great deal of controversy.

We need a “gold standard” of health, so to speak. We need someone whose complete soundness of mind and body provides the example with which we can compare all other cases. We need a flesh-and-blood yardstick of total human health.

Who else can it be, other than the Lord Jesus Himself?

And this helps us in more ways than one. On the one hand, there are plenty of things which some people want to call “healthy,” which Christ certainly never would have touched with a ten-foot pole.

On the other hand, the Lord Jesus—even though He never suffered the ravages of disease or old age—He did voluntarily accept suffering, for the sake of attaining the higher, eternal life. In other words, He has shown us that patiently submitting to bodily suffering—bodily suffering for which no real remedy is available—accepting this is, in its own way, perfectly “healthy.”

It is not “unhealthy” to recognize our bodies’ limitations and the effects that our mortality has on us. To the contrary, to accept the reality that death will eventually come for all of us—this acceptance is consummately “healthy.”

May the good Lord grant us all true health, “health” in the deepest sense—which means union with the gold standard of health, Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.

Mandate and Religious Freedom Compendium

The day has arrived when your humble servant will do my duty. Namely, I will begin a four-part series of homilies aimed at preparing us to pray and fast through the “Fortnight for Freedom” from June 21 to July 4.

First, though, if I may:

Dr. David Schindler has published an essay about human nature, freedom, and rights.

He distinguishes the ideal of a modern ‘liberal’ regime from the regime envisioned in the Church’s articulation of Her doctrine of religious freedom.

Dr. Schindler exposes the paradox at the heart of the liberal ideal of a religion-neutral state. If the law/the courts/the goverment say that freedom means anything other than openness to God and truth, then the content of what freedom is will always be supplied by the strong–at the expense of the weak.

The independent man who determines for himself what life means will inevitably do so at the expense of a weaker person. The only man who never infringes on the genuine “rights” of others is the one who acknowledges that he depends on God for his freedom, and he must use his freedom to seek goodness and truth.

In other words, if man is not for God, then he is for himself–at the expense of someone else, sooner or later.

I bring this up because: Obviously, Dr. Shindler has been reading my posts on the HHS-Mandate controversy and decided to supply the philosophical argumentation for why I make so much daggone sense.

Seriously, though…

We present a collection of the ramblings on this subject from the past few months, years:

Warming up for action: Answering the atheist…

1. What is Life?

2. Who’s the Mysterymonger?

To set the stage: Theology ≠ Esoterica

Kathleen Sibelius, Bishops Dolan and Lori, and me:

1. B.S. Alarms on Both Sides

2. I Will Give You Bacon, but Not a Contraceptive (2b. Let us Reason)

3. Define ‘Health’ for Me [See ‘What is Life?’ above for an answer.]

4. Abstinence More Healthy than Sex

5. Chastity, Conscience, and the Real Problem is that Too Many Doctors Suck

6. Should we have Faith in the First Amendment?

7. The real problem: When Goverment Oversteps Gamaliel’s Limit

8. Aha! The Church is a moral agent!

9. No Slogans (Pope St. Gregory VII)

10. Which is our Best Hand?

11. The Businessman’s Co-operation with Evil

12. Cathleen Kaveny’s Good Distinctions (January 2013)

13. Kaveny Again; Running Like Ray Rice

Four Sermons on “We cannot co-operate with evil, even if the civil law stipulates that we must.”

1. We, the Catholic Church of Christ

2. Co-operating and co-operating

3. Divine Law of Unconditional Love

4. Where Civil Laws Come From

Fortnight for Freedom Homilies

1. Hamlet and the Martyrs of Mexico

2. Fasting

3. Elijah’s God

4. St. Thomas More’s First Choice

5. Inconvenient and Uneasy in the Canticle of Zechariah

6. King Josiah and Prophetess Huldah (II Kings 22)

7. The Apostolic See

8. Believing Like the Martyrs

9. Backyard-barbecue, Catholic American

Theme Song: A Catholic Boy Can Survive

Fortnight for Freedom Homilies, 2013

Basic Marriage

The Looming Flashpoints

The Marriage-Law Titanic

Welcome Here

Hard Penance


Which of the two will land me in jail?

Cant’ be Happy about Hobby Lobby

Eternal Health

The leper came to Christ seeking health, well-being, soundness of body.

Soundness of body constitutes an essential element of our lives. We do everything we can to preserve our health. When we lose it, we try to get it back by every means we have at our disposal.

In what, though, does true health fundamentally consist?

Mustn’t we face the fact that we all suffer from a mortal disease that no medicine can keep at bay forever?

True health, enduring health, health that death cannot conquer—where do we get that? What pills can we take? What spa can we go to? What doctor can help us attain undying health?

We do well to seek health of body. We do even better to seek health of soul. Our souls thrive when they feed on the truth. When we live in Christ’s truth, no disease can destroy us, because we share in God’s eternal life.