The Diagnosis is Dire But The Doctor Is In

The Diagnosis is in. The situation looks grave. From the test results, we’ve got some serious stuff wrong with us!  You might say we’ve got a few issues!  Yes, I’ve  got your spiritual “medical chart” and mine open and I’m looking at the test results and the numbers don’t look good.  We’ve tested positive for a number of things: It says we can be dishonest, egotistical, undisciplined, weak, immature, arrogant, self-centered, pompous, insincere, unchaste, grasping, judgmental, inpatient, and shallow.  It looks like we’ve tested positive for being inconsistent, unfaithful, immoral, ungrateful, disobedient, selfish, lukewarm, slothful, unloving, uncommitted, and just plain sinful.  Further tests indicate the presence of fear, indifference, contempt, impurity, hatred, laziness, cowardice, and anger.  Likewise, greed, jealousy, revenge fullness, disobedience, hardheartedness, pride, envy, stinginess, selfishness, pettiness, spite, self-indulgence, lust, careless neglect, and prejudice. Our “spiritual” medical history indicates that we have sinned against justice, modesty, purity, and the truth. We have committed sins against the human person, the children and the young, innocent and the trusting, the frail and elderly, the unborn in infants, weak and powerless, immigrants and strangers, and those who are disadvantaged.   A set of further test results indicates that we have failed to give witness to Christ, we have failed to join our will to God or give good example to others.  We have failed to seek God above all things, to act justly you show mercy, and to repent of our sins.  We’ve failed to obey the commandments and curb our earthly desires.  We have failed to lead a holy life and to speak the truth. We have failed to pray for others and assist those in need;  neither have we consoled the grieving.

Well, you can see that we’re kind of in bad shape. You might say that I’m exaggerating but I suspect, if you’re honest, that you like me have committed many of  these sins if not most of them.  Without a lot of grace and mercy we are in very bad shape!  The diagnosis is dire.

But here’s the good news: the doctor is in! Jesus! Likewise, the doctor has a cure! Jesus refers us to the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR)- Spiritual Edition (also called the Holy Book) for  a cure to this condition. It is to be found in section Acts 2.42:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42)

The cure is thus ancient and well attested and consists of a consistent regime of four basic medicines which must be taken as the text says “Devotedly”:

  1. The Apostles’ Teaching– This medicine supplies daily doses of Scripture which helps to cleanse the mind of worldly thinking and to deliver remedial amounts of God-like thinking. It removes the tendency to be conformed to this world and begins a process of transformation by the renewing of the mind (Rom 12:4). While the term “apostles teaching”  is here used, this is medicine is inclusive of all Sacred Scripture of which the Apostles’ teaching is the pinnacle. Studying carefully another manual known as the Catechism also delivers healthy doses of Scripture (aka the Apostles Teaching).
  2. The Fellowship– This gathering or fellowship is also referred to as “The Church” and refers to the prescribed medicine of gathering frequently with the Church for instruction, edification, encouragement, necessary rebuke, exposure to truth, helpful friendships and proper worship of God known as the “Liturgy”. The regular and necessary dosage is once per week. Taking more is advantageous but missing the necessary weekly dose leads to a deadly condition known as “mortal sin.”
  3. The Breaking of the Bread– Also known as Holy Communion. This medicine supplies necessary nourishment to sustain the Christian on the journey across the desert of this life to the Promised Land of Heaven. Regular reception helps ensure being raised up on the last day to eternal life (Jn 6:54). Neglect of this medicine leads to spiritual death which the PDR – Spiritual Edition refers to as “having no life in you”  (Jn 6:53). While this medicine is called the “breaking of the bread” it actually refers to a series of seven medicines known as the “sacraments” of which Holy Communion is the greatest. Some medicines in this series are taken but once, others may require on-going doses. Most notable is the medicine called “confession” wherein, through salutary conversation with a properly licensed doctor in Jesus’ practice, one is healed from the wounds of sin through the laying on of hands and the words of absolution. The usual recommended dosage of this medicine of confession  is four to six times per year but more for those who wound easily.
  4. Prayer– Regular and substantial conversation with the Doctor (aka Jesus) is essential for healing. Herein symptoms are discussed and solutions are proposed. Given the grave condition, these visits must be daily. Failure to take this medicine daily leads to a serious complex known as “temptation” (cf  Mk 14:38) which leads the patient to further wounding and death-directed actions. The medicine of prayer comes in a variety of  forms: meditation, devotional reading of Scripture, contemplation, reading the lives of the saints and devotions such as the rosary, and novenas.

Well there it is.  We need help; we’ve got stuff going on that will kill us eternally. But Jesus has a hospital: the Church, and Medicine: the Sacraments. Likewise there is spiritual “medical” advice available, the Word of God, sermons, the teachings of the Church and the presence of encouraging doctors and nurses such as the priests, religious, and fellow Catholics.  Whether you and  like to  admit it or not we need regular check-ups and serious medicine. And Jesus is guiding his Church to give skillful advice and distribute powerful medicine. Do you think of the sacraments that way? Many simply think of them as rituals but the truth is they are powerful medicine. I’m a witness. After twenty-five years of seeing the doctor, Jesus and letting him minister to me through Sacraments, the Word and his Church a wonderful change has come over me. I’m not what I want to be but I’m not what I used to be.

The doctor is in and you know you need him! Reach out for him what ever your struggles.  He’s waiting to minister to you especially in the liturgy and the sacraments. You can’t do it alone. Join us every Sunday at the “holy hospital”, the Church. The Doctor is in!

14 Replies to “The Diagnosis is Dire But The Doctor Is In”

  1. Being a medical person, I loved reading this. Of course, like most medical people, I have a tendency to wait until things are really bad before I get help. I self medicate and deal with scary and painful stuff by myself (because that is how the hospital and my family taught me to deal with things).

    That said, it does sometimes carry over to my spiritual life. I have a hard time opening up to let people help me when I am hurting. I couldn’t tell you whether it’s pride or fear really. I think I am afraid, both medically and spiritually, of letting myself be vulnerable. Putting my life and issues in another’s hands with the risk of being hurt or turned away. I’m usually the one that helps others – I’m not used to someone helping me. The medical world and the spiritual one really do have a lot of parallels, don’t they? Just my musings since I can’t sleep…

  2. That picture evokes strong feelings in me. My husband, a retired physician, always used to say that the hand of God was on his shoulder, or that of the patient. And that was when he was still a heathen and had not yet converted to the Faith.

    May I ask where you got that image from?

  3. Katherine, as with everything else in the world, you have to be open to letting yourself receive. If you give the best gifts in the world to your family and friends, but cannot graciously accept the gifts they give you in return, what does that say about you? The gifts given to us by our God are easy to accept! Just open your heart and they will storm it.

    I have found that astute ”medical people” behave in just the opposite fashion than you’ve described. They usually know what’s going on in their bodies, and the smarter ones, which you will come to learn if you continue on in this educational path, avoid physicians and hospitals because one is better off avoiding them in most cases. This is not the same as “putting things off before getting help.”

    Finally, please be careful about what you describe as self-medicating. I hope you mean to say that you take the occasional over-the-counter pain relief or whatever…I’ve worked with nurses and some physicians that can’t control themselves when they have the opportunity to ‘self-medicate’ with narcotics that are readily available.

    Medicine and nursing are wonderful careers for the service-oriented person – I truly enjoyed every minute I was working as a nurse. But again, in order to serve, you have to be able to receive, otherwise you aren’t really serving anyone but yourself.

    1. It is true that some medical people do know when to get help. I do, as well, but only when I can’t handle my medical issues on my own. By self-medicating, I don’t mean with narcotics. I was simply making observations since I was wide awake. Also, where I work a lot of us ARE really bad patients. We trust each other, but half the stuff the patients come in with we would never go to an ER let alone our own doctors.

      I didn’t say that I couldn’t receive – I said that I have trouble with opening up to people. I am taking a big leap to open up on here and share my opinion. I don’t see how I am serving only myself if I am helping others and being hesitant about who I go to for help for me. I have put in a lot of time and tears and pain with the hospital that people don’t know the half of because I don’t talk about a lot of it. I have a team leader at work who tells me to “suck it up and deal with it” if I see a good friend that died and I’m not allowed to grieve about it.

      Also, it’s not easy for me to ask someone for help. As I mentioned above, it is mostly because I am afraid. I have been taught my whole life to suppress my emotions, with family and with the ER. I am sharing my experiences on here as openly as I can, and I don’t claim to know everything. I am young and I have a lot to learn. But I’ve also seen a lot in my job, and I want to use it to help others. Please do not judge me – I get that you are another medical person, but my observations and experiences are my own. I don’t really appreciate being judged when I am trying to express myself in an observational and friendly way.

      1. I don’t see where you feel ‘judged’ by me, Katherine. Like you, I was simply pointing out my experiences which differ from yours. I also offered you a caveat regarding medicating yourself. That’s not judging you.

        I have a hard time opening up to let people help me when I am hurting. I couldn’t tell you whether it’s pride or fear really. I think I am afraid, both medically and spiritually, of letting myself be vulnerable. Putting my life and issues in another’s hands with the risk of being hurt or turned away. I’m usually the one that helps others – I’m not used to someone helping me. This is what I was referring to when I said you should be open to receiving.

    2. Hey Jan,

      “They usually know what’s going on in their bodies, and the smarter ones, which you will come to learn if you continue on in this educational path, avoid physicians and hospitals because one is better off avoiding them in most cases.”

      I chuckled when I read that! Over the summer, I went to the hospital 6 times in a month. My blood pressure was skyrocketing, couldn’t catch my breath, was shaking. Five times, they sent me home with different sedatives to treat what they said was an anxiety disorder. The 6th time I went to the hospital, a doctor found some abnormality and ordered a scan. They found two blood clots in my lung and I was not allowed to move for 24 hours. Add to the mix that I am a recovering alcoholic (hospital had my history) and came to learn that alcohol is a sedative hypnotic drug, hence sedatives are a pretty big no-no for me. In following up with my cardiologist, this great but kind of cantankerous man, he told me to avoid the ER. He said, “They might kill ya there.”

      (No offense, Katherine. I’m very grateful to the doctor who found the clots)

      1. That’s a great story, anon ~ I hope everything works out for you. In the meantime, I would offer everyone the following, for what it’s worth: if you are hospitalized, know which medications you are supposed to be getting, what they are for, and when you are to receive them (keep a written list if that will help); question any oral medication that looks different than what you are expecting, and, LOOK AT THE LABEL ON ANY I.V. DRUG you are getting, especially note the name of the patient! If it’s different than yours, say something! 🙂

        I’ve made a few medication errors myself (minor ones, thankfully), but it’s been with family members being hospitalized where the extent of the problem really rears its ugly head.

        And, as anon said – make sure they have your history!

  4. Monsignor, your post reminded me of the following: “One of the greatest problems in the Church over the centuries *** [is] the idea that God has established a set of perfectly reasonable rules, which are entirely within our power to obey — and if we don’t, it’s just because we’re weaklings. We don’t belong in the Church — which is a club for saints. On this model, the Church is like a gourmet health spa for Olympic athletes ***. Any priest who has spent time hearing confessions knows better, of course. So should every self-reflective believer. In fact, the Church is less like a gymnasium than a trauma ward for gut-shot sinners. The gurneys and chairs are full of patients with varying levels of injury, while the doctors are spattered with blood. And Christ is less like an elite surgeon than the ultimate organ donor.” From the Bad Catholic’s Guide to Good Living.

    [Sorry for posting a long quote, but I thought it complemented nicely what you had written.]

    1. Thanks I remember reading this a Black Preacher who spoke eloquently of how the Lord gave us a tranfusion with his own blood bringing us from death to life. He had the congregation (mee too) on our feet.

  5. Dear Monsignor,
    I love the way the disciple on Jesus’ right, in the JMT video you embedded, leans into Him. I am guessing that’s John? It reminded me of the Dark Night, the other St. John’s love poem to God.

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