In a prayer he composed to recite before saying Mass, St. Thomas Aquinas says he comes, “as one infirm to the physician of life.” One doesn’t necessarily think that a saint would be infirm or sick, especially approaching Mass. Yet that is what we all are, since we are all sinners.
Sickness, disease and wounds have all been physical metaphors for sin. There are numerous Psalms (6 & 32 come to mind) that speak of physical ailments and call for God to heal the soul. But in this age of modern medicine and technology, can this metaphor be maintained? Actually, I think it may even enhance the way we look at sin and the struggle we have against it.
God is the Divine Physician, but healing may not come overnight. Sometimes, it’s a lifelong process or “treatment” like for someone who has high blood pressure. It needs to be monitored, and medication and diet changes may be needed to keep it under control. For other sins, God may need to do a bit of “surgery” on us that could leave some scars. It takes time to heal after surgery and for the scars to lessen, but they may not ever really go away. In a way, those scars can remind us of the pain and suffering a particular sin caused and help us better avoid it in the future. And other sins can be like overindulging in food; we can’t avoid it since it is necessary to live, but we can be on guard of the temptation to eat too much.
A sin can be both simple and complex. It’s all too easy to look at the 10 commandments superficially and say that you follow them all. But take a closer look, and they go much deeper than just the words. For example, “You shall not kill,” is not just about not taking a life, but about being life-giving, treating people with the respect and dignity they deserve as children of God. It’s also about forgiving those who may have injured us.
Jesus once answered the Pharisees by saying, “Those who are well do not need a physician but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Mark 2:17). Jesus is calling us, you and me. He wants us! He wants to heal us. He want to forgive our sins and tell us, “do not sin again.” (John 8:11) But in order for that to happen, we need to present our sins to Him, admitting the bad habits and ugliness of our lives. Only then, can we get the medicine, the treatment or the surgery that our souls need in order to live in Christ.