Healing is frequently understood as the amelioration, reversal, or relief of the physical signs and symptoms which accompany an illness or disease. This may seem like an adequate definition of healing; however, healing may be understood on a deeper level and from a broader perspective.
If one considers human life as existing solely on the material level, then any definition of healing would be limited to that perspective. A materialist may not consider any greater definition of healing, but a Christian understanding of healing includes the physical body as well as the mystical levels of soul and spirit.
Soul and spirit, or the “essentialness” of a person, is derived from our connection with God.
In this sense, a state of health is not only about whether or not one is relieved of the manifesting signs and symptoms of an illness or disease; rather it is also about whether or not a person who is created in the image and likeness of the Divine is in harmony with this reality.
The reason, then, to reduce the signs, symptoms, and suffering is ultimately to allow freedom within the soul and body so that the instruments of body and mind can be utilized for further Spiritual Enlightenment and service. From a Christian holistic perspective, this is healing. When the signs and symptoms of an illness or disease are relieved and one learns something profound from their illness, it becomes possible to remodel attitudes—and thus to remodel life—in deeper, more meaningful, and more purposeful directions.
There are also times when signs, symptoms, pain, and suffering are not able to be reversed within a person; however an attitude of surrender may be engendered resulting in transcendent Peace that surpasses all understanding. This too, is just as much healing even if death occurs.
When patients discover that I combine two backgrounds in the priesthood and in pain medicine, they often ask me,
“How do you function in two different worlds?” My answer is always the same: “I don’t see them as two separate worlds.”
We are told that our Lord Jesus Himself went about all of Galilee teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and disease among the people (Matthew 4:23). The healing of the sick and the preaching of the Gospel have always been intertwined and integrated within the life and ministry of the Church.