Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday 22B. "That you may live": the spiritual health of the Eucharistic diet protects from the defilement of sin

In my visit to the hospital last week I had the privilege and joy of giving absolution and anointing to a parishioner who may be living through his last days in this world. I experienced both the sorrow that comes with compassion for those who suffer the final agonies of life but also the joy of knowing that I was able to give him the assurance of God's love and compassion through forgiveness of sins.

We all suffer from illnesses of various kinds from time to time, and most of us can expect a recovery sooner or later, sometimes under a doctor's care. For us this can be an occasion also to think about and pray for those whose hope of recovery from illness lies only in prayer for a miracle, such as those who are terminally ill and, in some cases, those suffering with cancer. Our own experiences with suffering can help us to become more compassionate toward others.

A good doctor will tell us that preserving and increasing health is a day to day concern, and that eating the right foods in the correct quantities is also a means of maintaining health of mind and body. This was true for the people of the first covenant during the earthly life of Christ. We see then too that God’s desire for life included health and that preserving the gift of health that He gives with life is part of his plan. Hence we see the dietary laws which preserved health but also inculcated a covenant identity of love through obedience for God's chosen people. But this was taken to an extreme when it became an end in itself, practiced in forgetfulness of God as the source and in His love as its highest purpose and end.

We, too, live a covenant life of loving obedience through Jesus Christ as the source of truth in the Ten Commandments which are summed up in two greatest commandments of loving God and neighbor and also expressed in the Beatitudes and precepts of the Church which apply these to our daily life.

“… that you may live..”

God’s desire is for life. He intervenes in our world and in our lives so that we truly live by sharing His life which never ends. He intervenes perfectly in Christ who reveals and fulfills in Himself all the laws which enabled the people to love the covenant relationship with God.

"Going even further, Jesus perfects the dietary law, so important in Jewish daily life, by revealing its pedagogical meaning through a divine interpretation: 'Whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him. . . (Thus he declared all foods clean.). . . What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts. . .' In presenting with divine authority the definitive interpretation of the Law, Jesus found himself confronted by certain teachers of the Law who did not accept his interpretation of the Law, guaranteed though it was by the divine signs that accompanied it. This was the case especially with the sabbath laws, for he recalls, often with rabbinical arguments, that the sabbath rest is not violated by serving God and neighbor, which his own healings did." (CCC 582)

Thus, one of the ways in which our life is diminished is by the suffering brought on by an illness, which sometimes can cause death. So to have life to the fullest we must protect it from anything which might “defile” it on the natural level. But the Lord teaches us in the Gospel that even more we must protect the grace of the spiritual life: unlike the health of the body which can be jeopardized by threats from without, the soul is endangered by what comes out of a person who opts for evil and sin.

Sin is a sign of the lack of spiritual health.

"Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the commandments they violate. They can also be classed according to whether they concern God, neighbor, or oneself; they can be divided into spiritual and carnal sins, or again as sins in thought, word, deed, or omission. The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will, according to the teaching of the Lord: "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a man." But in the heart also resides charity, the source of the good and pure works, which sin wounds." (CCC 1853)

Just as we obey the "commandments" of health for the body through dietary advice, a doctor's care and medicine when recommended that we may have life here and now, so God's covenant love includes care for our spiritual health that we may have life forever.

Commandments of life for the covenant relationship for believers are supported for health of the spirit by God's grace in the Eucharist, a "dietary" sacrament, through the ministry of the Divine Physician through in healing oil of "anointing" and as emergency medical intervention through the sacrament of Confession.

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