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”:
- 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).
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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!