The rich ferial Masses for Lent provide us with much spiritual food for our forty-day sojourn in the desert. Today’s propers focus on Jesus Christ, the divine Physician. The stational Church for today is the Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian, the Syrian physicians who were martyred in Rome. In the temple dedicated to these men of medicine, it is fitting to read a passage from the physician-evangelist, St. Luke (4:38-44).
This Gospel relates the story of Our Lord’s miraculous cure of St. Peter’s mother-in-law, who suffered from a fever. In a reading for today’s office of Matins, St. Ambrose says, “Our fever is avarice; our fever is caprice; our fever is luxury; our fever is ambition; our fever is inclination to anger.” The Milanese Doctor of the Church is telling us that our inner ills of vice, malice, and disordered passion are sicknesses that Jesus can cure. This is a beautiful application of the “tropological” or moral sense of Holy Scripture.
After Christ restored the fever-stricken woman to health, He cured a whole multitude, well into the night: “And when the sun was down, all they that had any sick with divers diseases, brought them to him. But he laying his hands on every one of them, healed them.”
Jesus is God. As man, He is Priest, Prophet, and King. He is also our Judge, who will render an inescapable sentence at the end of our time on earth. Christ is a Judge whom we cannot bribe, fool, or hope to evade. As we are when we die, and meet Him in our particular judgment, so will He sentence us — as worthy of Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. This truth is a source of salutary fear.
But before we meet the Just Judge, we have the opportunity to avail ourselves of the balm of His mercy. Lent is a special time to avail ourselves of this. As Father Phillipson told us at this morning’s Mass, there is nothing that Jesus cannot heal us of: Nothing. Whatever our wounds of sin, He has the cure. As St. Luke wrote in today’s Gospel: “all they that had any sick with divers diseases… he laying his hands on every one of them, healed them.”
Christ’s remedies can treat pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. He’s a general practitioner who wants to treat the complete person with the holistic medicine of grace, but He’s also a specialist, adept at treating the most extreme cases. He can cure paganism, heresy, schism, and all manner of unbelief with ease. His medicines can make a bandit into a St. Moses the Black and a prostitute into into a St. Mary of Egypt. Homosexuals are not beyond His mercy. After enumerating a list of grave sins, including homosexuality, St. Paul tells the Corinthians: “And such some of you were; but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
Pornographers, rapists, murderers, pedophiles, pimps, drug dealers, too, can benefit from Christ’s therapeutic power. Not a single disorder of our intellects, wills, or passions is beyond His expertise, so that no one need fear that his condition is incurable. St. Luke says — notably of Our Lord’s arch-rivals, the Pharisees and the Doctors of the Law — that “the power of the Lord was to heal them” (Luke 5:17).
As with any good doctor, two things are required of us to benefit from the help of the Divine Physician: (1) We have to go to Him for a remedy, and (2) we must follow doctor’s orders. Some medicines taste bad, and some surgeries are painful; but without them, we will die. Sometimes, too, the doctor can make onerous demands of us, as in “lose weight,” “quit smoking,” or “Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee” (John 5:14).
Some people, let’s call them liberals, think the Divine Physician can overlook our maladies, that His mercy is unconditional. In their strange religion, the horror of sin evaporates, and the compassion of Christ is meaningless, for it leaves us in our misery.