Why Do We Need The Gift Of Faith Today?
by Philippe Madre
I have been praying for the sick for twenty years now, as much through my profession as a doctor involved in the'
psycho-spiritual', as through the ministry of preaching, teaching, and healing that I exercise in the heart of the
Beatitudes Community, of which I am a member.
For about ten years now, when I have prayed for serious physical illnesses, I have often been surprised to discover among these people an ambiguous desire for healing. They effectively wait for God to relieve them from their suffering, but at the same time seem to dread being healed.
In the end, most people are frightened of healing, although they are not aware of this. I am not saying that they are knowingly afraid of healing; but their illness or handicap is so embedded in the image that they have of themselves that being healed would bring about a great change in life and habits...change that they are not always sure they wholeheartedly and confidently want to embrace.
We are not saying here that those who are ill would no longer be so, should they really want to be healed, or should they let Christ heal them. The whole mystery of suffering, with its long line of illnesses and handicaps, injustices and hardships will exist until the end of time. It is through this mystery, says Pascal, that "Christ is in agony until the end of the world." The mystery of suffering is worthy of deep respect although everything must be tried to have suffering eased or resolved wherever it exists, in respect for human dignity. Science has an enormous contribution to give here.
Nevertheless evidence exists that those who are touched by the Holy Spirit during any prayer for healing are often frightened, unconsciously, of any deep change that may happen to them! This fear, whether strong or not, merely by its presence, risks working against the grace of healing entering a person's life.
Paradoxically, it is true that an illness or infirmity can unintentionally be lived out as a sort of security by whoever has it. Hence, the unique fear of losing this false security. It is in the face of this fear that we are given the opportunity to best understand the gift of faith-why it appears and it is needed.
Often, before praying, when the people who are seriously ill are asked whether they really desire to be healed by Jesus, there is some hesitation. They often look at us quite anxiously. They have very little hope of themselves being able to be healed through the power of the Holy Spirit, particularly if they have been ill for a long time. This lack of hope in one's own healing reflects-among many people-a deep fear of being healed. I must make it completely clear however that those who are ill are not responsible for this fear. On the contrary, they can do nothing about it and need supernatural help to be gradually freed from it. This is where the gift of faith intervenes.
Those who receive this gift of faith are moved by a sudden and unforeseeable interior stirring toward those who have difficulty accepting with trust the grace of healing which the Lord is offering them.
This momentary charismatic faith is capable of encouraging whoever is ill to reach out with greater hope for his or her own healing from Christ. When someone who prays for the sick receives this ability to believe strongly, then this gift at the service of their brothers and sisters is not linked to the person's own theological faith. It is more a charismatic movement of faith in response to a very specific need.
Discernment of this kind of gift is obviously necessary in order to avoid any illusion. The presence of this charismatic grace is of the utmost importance, particularly in places where the sick are frequently prayed for, because of the existence of this famous fear which harmfully prevents healing being fully embraced. The spontaneous and transient charismatic faith of one person goes in search of and sort of releases faith within another person (the one who is sick), this time this being theological faith. It is not only one person who is sought out though, but all those who will be taking part at the event. This is thanks to the tangible nature of the gift and of its practice. In the same way, they too will be brought to a place of growth in their own theological faith, which is that of the Church.
That evangelistic power which is one of the unique qualities of the gift of faith can be found here, a quality that is entirely ecclesial.
If persons already have difficulties in allowing God to heal them because of their unconscious fears, then how many more difficulties will they still have to meet when it comes to taking hold of the true gift, which is from God Himself, namely that of forgiveness. This fear of being healed seems to be linked in fact with a still more important fear, that of God, as God gives Himself to man through Jesus Christ. In His great Love, this is what God wants-to be welcomed into our lives. Nevertheless, even if we earnestly want all of God's Love, we discover that we are incapable of welcoming it into our lives. This inability, rooted in fear, can without a doubt only be linked to the existence of the sin found within us.
The charism of faith shows us, in its own way, that we all need to be submissive to the gift of God's Love. This basically is what the gift of Faith is all about, even though it is not seen as an all-purpose tool of embracing, of forgiveness, and of healing. Through the eyes of divine Wisdom, it makes us aware that we need a supernatural help in order to openly receive what the Lord wants to fill us with – His Mercy.
With Permission: ICCRS [International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services] Newsletter – April-May 1995.