Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Healing of the Whole Person

A popular movie, Milyang, tells the story of a mother whose son was kidnapped and killed. She decided to go to the prison to forgive the killer, who told her that he had already been forgiven by God, and had finally found peace. The mother, who considered herself the only one who had the right to forgive him for what he had done, was filled with anger and gave up on her religious faith. So overcome by the incident, she lost all the peace she had gained by her religion.

A priest-spiritual director writing in the Kyeongyang magazine introduces the above story to explore the relationship between healing and religion. Religion, in this case, he points out, did not help the mother to forgive. She had deceived herself by what she thought would have been an act of mercy by forgiving him, but it was, instead, her own opiate to escape the reality of her own pain. Religion does provide us with the strength to heal but in our present world it has to compete within a world of delusion and deception. Though 'healing' and 'happiness' are words often heard today, they have become commodities to be bought and sold in the marketplace of ideas. And religion, the priest admits, for one reason or another, in this toxic environment, is not providing the healing many of us expect.
The so-called healing treatments are often a combination of humanistic methods, he says, used even by Christians without discerning what is being done. Instead of a gospel-based worldview and Christian values, we are playing recklessly with misunderstood human values.

He believes healing is needed more so today than it was in the past, which is the message of Ulrich Beck, in his book Risk Society.  Our material progress, Beck says, has given us the many successes of our modern society, but has also brought us the problems we now have to face. This is the dilemma, and one we face daily in our lives. When we forget who we are, and do damage to our humanity, we hurt also the communities we belong to. Eventually, the problems of society are going to affect our inner life.

Our constant talk about healing is a sure sign of our need for healing. Why the need for so much healing? the priest asks. We have to look for the reasons and the way to heal. The word 'healing,' says the priest, is used with a superficial and distorted meaning. In this kind of atmosphere, there is no place for the healing provided by religion, which is concerned not merely with a cure for certain aliments but with healing of the whole person. Our humanity is made up not only of the body, but of the mental and spiritual. The time of talking about the healing of different parts of ourselves has come to an end, the priest believes. It is the integrated whole of our being that needs to be healed, just as the word 'salvation' now has to be understood as saving the whole person--body, mind and spirit.

Jesus was the example of this kind of healing. It was healing of the whole person. The person was changed and began a new life. It was not only the healing of disease or relief from pain but the return to the wholeness of life. The Church has to return to stressing the understanding that Jesus is the foundation and the fountain from which all healing comes.

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