Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Christ the Omnipotent Healer - by St. Augustine

The following is a beautiful and convicting modern translation of Augustine's comments on Psalm 103:3.

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Now listen to all the ways in which he has repaid you. He is ready to forgive your iniquities, and he heals all your diseases. He will redeem your life from corruption, he crowns you in his pity and mercy. He satisfies your longing with good things, your youth will be renewed like an eagle's. These are the forms his repayment takes. What was due to a sinner except torment? What was owed to a blasphemer except the fires of hell? Yet these were not the repayment he made to you; do not be afraid, do not shrink back appalled, do not give way to loveless terror. Do not forget all those good ways in which he has repaid you; allow yourself to be changed now, and so avoid experiencing his—what shall I say? His bad ways of repaying you? But they cannot be bad if they are just. They seem bad to you, but to God not even the bad things you suffer are bad; for if they are just, they are good, and only to you who endure them do they seem bad. Would you prefer not to experience your fate as bad, just though it is in God's sight? Then make sure there is no sinful badness on your part in his presence. He has never ceased to call you, nor has he neglected to instruct the one he has called; he has never ceased to perfect the one he has instructed, nor will he neglect to crown you when he has made you perfect. What have you to say? That you are a sinner? Be converted, then, and be open to receive the repayments he offers, for he is ready to forgive all your iniquities.

Even after your sins are forgiven you still carry with you a weak body. Inevitably there will be carnal desires that titillate you and tempt you to forbidden pleasures; these result from your sickness, for you still carry weak flesh. Death has not yet been swallowed up in victory, nor has this corruptible nature yet been clothed in incorruptibility (See 1 Cor. 15:54, 53). The soul itself is still shaken by manifold disturbances, even after the forgiveness of its sins. It is still battered by dangerous temptations, and all sorts of suggestions assail it. Some of these it finds pleasurable, others it does not; but from time to time it consents to some of those in which it takes pleasure, and then it is trapped. This is a disease, but the Lord heals all your diseases. All your maladies will be healed, never fear. "They are great," you say; but the physician is greater. An omnipotent doctor is never confronted with an incurable disease. All you need to do is to allow yourself to be cured. Do not thrust his hands away, for he knows what he is doing. You must not simply enjoy it when he pampers you; you must also bear it when he plies the knife. Hold out under the painful treatment by fixing your mind on the health it will bring you.

Just think, my brothers and sisters, how much people put up with in their bodily illnesses, and only to gain a few extra days of life before they die and uncertain days at that. Plenty of people have endured excruciating pain under surgery, and then died in the hands of the doctors, or else recovered only to succumb to some other illness that carried them off. If they had looked for such a speedy death, would they have consented to undergo that agonizing pain? But you are not suffering for the sake of a doubtful outcome; he who has promised you health cannot make a mistake. A doctor is sometimes mistaken in promising health where a human body is concerned. Why can he be mistaken. Because what he is trying to heal is not something he made himself. But God made your body, and God made your soul. He knows how to re-create what he created; he knows how to form anew what he once formed. Your job is simply to stay under the doctor's hands; anyone who pushes his hands away offends him. People do not behave so to human doctors. On the contrary, they let themselves be tied down and cut. For the sake of uncertain recovery they are willing to pay the high price of certain pain. God who made you cures you with absolute certainty, and he charges no fee. Yield to his hands, then, O soul, you who bless him, mindful of all the ways in which he repays you, for he heals all your diseases.
Saint Augustine (Bishop of Hippo). Expositions of the Psalms, 99-120. III/19. The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century.  Translation and notes by Maria Boulding, O.S.B. Edited by Boniface Ramsey. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2003, pp. 82-83 (emphasis mine).

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