Each Mass, Catholics remind ourselves of the centurion’s humbleness. “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you. But only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.” Those who are able to worthily take Communion then receive the Lord’s Body.
What does healing mean, in this case? Speaking only for myself, I’ve always thought of it as merely fixing a wound. However, consider what Catholics read on July 5:
After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”
At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”– he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to men.
There are several forms of healing which take place here. Two were always obvious to me (and, I assume, to any reader) – the paralyzed man’s body and soul are no longer marred by paralysis and sin, respectively. Until last week, I had not gotten much else out of this reading.
What I completely missed until last week was that “healing” isn’t just fixing the problem of paralysis. Notice that the man “rose and went home” moments after Christ healed him. How many of us could walk home after years of atrophied leg muscles?
That’s another miracle. A man who couldn’t use his legs at all one minute earlier walked home under his own power.
What does this mean for each of us when we acknowledge that if God says the word, “our soul shall be healed”? I propose that it means we won’t just be fixed – the marks of sin erased. Rather, this paralytic’s actions indicate that something more profound may take place. After all, we are healed from sin each time we go to Confession, but we still have weaknesses from original sin. Perhaps that healing will eliminate that weakness from our souls, or give us the sort of superhuman powers exhibited by the Old Testament’s prophets and the New Testament’s apostles.
A related lesson from this Gospel which the priest highlighted in his homily is the need for assistance from others to receive God’s healing. This man would never have been healed of anything without his friends. Whether here on Earth or in Purgatory, we always need the help of others – and those who are aligned with the Will of God can indeed create opportunities for His miracles.
To put it another way: without his friends, the paralytic would not have been healed by Christ in either body or soul. Likewise, without others, our souls are more likely to be left adrift and at the tender mercies of those people and demons who wish us harm.