Recently I spoke to a young friend of mine who is working in a new job. He compared his present salary and benefits to those of his previous employment, and mentioned health benefits in particular. He commented, “As I get older, health benefits become more important to me.” I can certainly understand what he means.
In the gospel a royal official in Galilee asks Jesus to heal his son who, he thinks, is gravely ill and may die. As we get older, we spend more time thinking of four basic elements of our human condition: life, health, sickness, and death.
Each one of us was born into this world of nature, of body and soul. Most of us were reborn by baptism into the world of grace, or eternal life. This physical, natural life of ours will run its course, and as we grow older, our physical health will break down, we will suffer from illnesses and debility, and then we will die. That is not a very encouraging scenario. But fortunately, that is not all there is. The spiritual life that God gave us at baptism is not meant ever to die, or to grow weak and debilitated. We grow old in this world, but there is no old age or sickness or debility in Heaven. And even as our bodies are coming to the end of their physical lives, they can contribute to the robust health of our souls. By placing ourselves totally in the hands of the good God and offering our sufferings, illnesses, and the inevitability of death in union with the sufferings and death of Jesus, we merit for ourselves a share in his resurrection.
One day, shortly before her death, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus was sitting in the garden of her monastery in Lisieux. Her hands were folded in her lap, and she was studying them carefully. One of the Sisters went by and said to her, Sister Therese, what are you looking at? The dying saint answered her, “I’m looking at my hands. It is so good to see oneself being destroyed!” That is a statement of a woman of strong faith and hope. She knew by the emaciated condition of her hands that her death was approaching, and that death was the entrance into eternal life with her beloved Christ. So in the order of nature, we have, birth, life, health, sickness, and death. But in the spiritual life, if we conform ourselves to God’s plan for us, we have rebirth, life, health, growing health, even greater health, and then, when the body dies, entrance into our home with God for which he destined us. This is the basis for Christian hope; this is the reason why Our Lord goes, as he says, to prepare a place for us. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.