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Healing vs. Cure?

I will never forget the day that Gayle, my son Bryce’s mom, was diagnosed with Stage-4 breast cancer. Her diagnosis pulled the rug out from under me, and changed the course of my life. She was only 34 and within 3 years she died. Gayle was encouraged by her surgeon to read up on the disease…she was give several technical books about it. But Gayle didn’t want to read about the disease, she wanted to read inspirational books about how to live with the disease and what God was doing with her life.

Someone gave Gayle a book by Dr. Bernie Siegel, Love, Medicine and Miracles. In my spare time, I devoured the book hoping to find a way to help Gayle. I was mesmerized by the book. Siegal says, “It’s not about curing the disease, but healing the life; then the physical benefits come.” This was my burning question, “Was everything up to doctors, or does the patient play a role?” His book delivered a resounding YES, but not from the medical perspective that I was expecting. He spoke about life, relationships, love, nutrition, dreams, intuition, being passionate and authentic, and about feelings! He said, “Healing may not be so much about getting better, as about letting go of everything that isn’t you – all of the expectations, all of the beliefs – and becoming who you are.”

The etymology of the words “healing” and “health” are linguistically related to “whole” and “holy” – a “restoration of wholeness, becoming whole.” The word “cure” means “restoration to health – eliminating all evidence of disease.”

I remember from my days in Seminary when I had to do CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education), where I was placed in a hospital setting for the summer, doing a lot of self-evaluation in pastoring people from all walks of life. One of the things that I recall, is how we were taught that we as chaplains were to be part of the medical team that focused on healing not particularly a cure. The team was not just physicians. Yeah, go tell that to the young residents and interns! But I realized that those who went to medical school focused mostly in curing and little attention on healing. I hope things have changed with the new doctors a bit since those days in CPE!

One of the things that was pounded in us was how important it is that the goal of life is not to live forever. Even the greatest human beings have not achieved that, like Moses, Mandela, Gandhi. The goal of life is to fill our years with life; not just to fill our life with years.

It gave me a better understanding that even though Gayle was only 37 years old, by the time she died, she had come to a place of her own “healing” and acceptance of the time she was given and what she had the privilege to achieve in that time. She was so proud of her son Bryce. She said to me, near her demise, we did good with that little boy!

Cures are only effective if healing takes place on a deeper level. The symptom or the disease is just a bodily wake-up call that something internally (mental, emotional, or spiritual) needs to be addressed.

I have concluded that we need to have a combination of healing and curing. Trust the physicians to do their job, but also trust our own intuition. Dr. Viktor Frankl wrote, “When we are no longer able to change our circumstances, we are challenged to change ourselves.” This has brought me tremendous empowerment with my own life struggles. It is not always about controlling the outcome of to cure, but about coming to an inner place of healing, despite the outcome.

This week, we will see in our Gospel reading, the healing of the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter and the man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech. When we look at these stories in a larger framework, we can see that there were underlying and internal issues each of these persons had to deal with. It was through Christ that they found healing. Miracle cure? Maybe. Healing? For sure.

May God give you blessings and peace in all the circumstances of your lives as God through Christ continues in healing humanity. Fr. Bill+



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