My coworkers and I often just have to shake our heads in disbelief. Working in a medical office as we do, we see a lot of sick people who want to be well. They are sick of being sick. Many of them will insist emphatically that they will do anything, “whatever it takes,” to regain their health, and yet… when the doctor starts making his recommendations, their “anything” turns into “anything but that!”
Yep, one of the sad truths of modern medicine is that, even in this world of miracle drugs, you still have to take your medicine. That’s reality. No getting around it….
We Christians often react the same way when God tries to straighten us out. We pray and pray for a cure to our perceived ills, and God provides one. Our reaction sounds a lot like “Thanks, God – but no thanks!” We are following in the footsteps of our spiritual ancestors as encountered in the Old Testament as well as in the New. Naaman the leper, having explored every avenue of healing available to him in his native land, travels out of desperation to the Jewish prophet Elisha. Elisha, for his part, doesn’t even bother to speak to the man; he sends a servant to announce to him “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” This prescription was not exactly received in a spirit of thanksgiving:
Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.
Lot’s wife was yet another noncompliant patient. The Lord in His mercy wanted to save her; all He asked was that she not turn around and look back. In the New Testament the rich young ruler was eager to inherit eternal life, but he found the prescription too difficult to fill; “Sell everything you have and give to the poor…. Then come, follow Me.” What? You mean I have to do something I’d rather not do? Can I negotiate a better deal, Lord?
Fortunately for Naaman the leper, his servants were more level-headed than he:
Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.
This good advice, of course, is exactly in accord with the directions given by the Blessed Virgin to the servants at the wedding feast of Cana. It’s simple, yet profound: Do whatever He tells you. Like it or not, you have to face reality – He established His Church upon Peter (Mt 16:18), His Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), and if you want a remedy for your ills, you will need to receive His Body and Blood from that Church (Jn 6:53). Don’t even try to negotiate; there is no better deal. He’s the Great Physician, and He’s written His prescription. Now it’s up to you to get it filled.
On the memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and companions
Deo omnis gloria!