The Particular Healing Grace of the Mass
by Kathleen Beckman, L.H.S.
Christ said, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). God created us for fullness of life. The abundant life is primarily conferred through the Eucharist.
In the Eucharist, we have direct physical contact with Jesus. There is a most important distinction to be made between the healing power of the Eucharist and healing prayers said outside of the Mass. In the Gospel accounts of people being healed by Jesus, we discover that everyone who touches Jesus is healed: “People brought to him all those who were sick and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed” (Matthew 14:35-36). When we receive the Eucharist at Mass, we are touching Jesus and our communion is physical. We are ingesting the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, and this is medicine for our body, mind and spirit. The penetration of the Divine Person of Jesus into our human person is thorough and lasting. Fr. John Hampsch, C.M.F. explains why Holy Communion is healing for our body, mind and spirit:
In John 6:56, Jesus says, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” The Greek word for abide is meno. This was one of St. John’s favorite words; he uses it in ten places in his Gospel. The word meno means to remain intimately present to, to be nestled into, and to be grafted into. It conveys a very deep sense of intimacy, and in no way signifies a temporary encounter. Even though our encounter with Jesus is temporary, the effect is lasting. We are grafted into Christ and we are united with him, like branches united to the vine (John 15:4).
In the liturgy of the Eucharist, several prayers at Communion time refer to the healing power of the Eucharist. For instance, immediately after the Lord’s Prayer, the priest says the following prayer (italics added): “Deliver us, Lord,from every evil, and grant us your peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” Upon closer examination, it becomes apparent that this simple prayer encompasses several distinct forms of healing. First, of all, the priest prays a prayer of deliverance, so that we might all be healed of any extrinsic spiritual disorders that occur from the attacks of demonic forces. This is based on 1 Corinthians 10:21: “You cannot partake of the (Eucharistic) table of the Lord and of the table of demons.” Secondly, he prays for societal or communitarian healing (i.e., peace that heals interpersonal or intrapersonal conflict). Thirdly, he prays for the healing of our intrinsic spiritual disorders, asking God to free us from our state of sin. Finally, he prays for our emotional healing, freedom from anxiety and guilt feelings so we can experience inner peace and joyful hope.
Later on, the priest has the option of reciting another prayer that speaks about physical healing (body) and emotional healing (mind) as he prepares to receive Holy Communion himself (italics added): Lord Jesus Christ, with faith in your love and mercy I eat your body and drink your blood. Let it not bring me condemnation, but health in mind and body.”
Finally, there is a prayer that the congregation recites before approaching the altar to receive Holy Communion: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed. This prayer has its origins in the story about the healing of a centurion’s servant in Matthew 8:5-13. In faith, he knew that Jesus needed only to say the word for his servant to be healed. “And Jesus said to the centurion, “You may go, as you have believed, let it be done for you” (Mt.8:13).
In Acts 2:42, we read that the early Christians “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” It is noteworthy that they did not simply participate in these activities, including the Eucharist (the “breaking of the bread”), but devoted themselves to them. The word devoted has several connotations and says much about the expectant faith of those early Christians, especially as they approached Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is noteworthy that their devotion had a corporate dimension and was a truly communitarian experience: the whole community had this surging expectancy of faith because they all believed that they were to experience a real encounter with Jesus himself. The fullness of life which Jesus confers on us through the Eucharist is not due to following the ritual but because of him: “The one who feeds on me will have life because of me” (John 6:57, emphasis added). - Fr. John Hampsch, The Healing Power of the Eucharist
In this way, Fr. Hampsch illumines why we are healed by the Eucharist, and he also brings up an important point regarding communal faith and prayer at the Mass. This environment is most conducive to healing. Let us pray for the Church to experience an increase in both fervor for the Mass and expectant faith in the healing power of the Eucharist.
(This reflection originally appeared in Rekindle Eucharistic Amazement: Healing and Holiness through the Mass and Holy Hour (Queenship Publishing, 2008) by Kathleen Beckman).