Fixer Uppers

We all need to be fixed. Of course, we generally try to avoid admitting this to each other, and so it’s often God Who gets to hear the most about our brokenness. “Jesus, I really hurt my brother this morning. Please fix me so I can love him better.”

This isn’t a bad prayer. Sometimes we truly need the Lord to step in and miraculously fix us. Saint Luke, whom we celebrate today, knew this well, both from his own experience and from the stories he heard from the Apostles. In the last miracle Luke describes in his Gospel, for example, Jesus heals the slave’s ear with a simple touch.

Nowadays we don’t often encounter sudden fixings like this. It’s not that we never experience the Lord, but rather that He usually seems to work very slowly—certainly more slowly than He did for the high priest’s slave. A tradition holds that Saint Luke was a physician, so he would have known this well. A doctor cannot simply tap us with some fancy device and cure us from outside. Instead, healing is a cooperative process in which the doctor helps our body to do better what it’s supposed to do itself.

The Lord often works in a similar way, as Luke shows in some other miracles. Even the longer miracles read quickly in the Gospel’s terse style, but it’s worth comparing the one-verse restoration of the slave’s ear to, for example, the healing of the ten lepers. This miracle, although equally amazing, takes significantly longer: there’s a little conversation, then the lepers start walking to the Temple, and only then are they finally healed.

Of course, the Lord could work suddenly, both in the lives of these lepers and in our own. Why doesn’t He? At least a part of the answer lies in God’s radical respect for our freedom—which He Himself gives us. We’re rightly suspicious of quick fixes for bodily ills, for we know that attempting to shortcut the way our body is made will break it rather than heal it. Similarly, because we are made to be free, any successful coercion of our freedom would break our whole selves, body and soul. If we’re too attached to our own wants and needs and plans to freely accept the scalpel of the Divine Physician—as is all too often the case—fixing us would just break us. Instead, we must be healed.

Image: Gerrit Dou, The Physician

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Br. Anthony VanBerkum, O.P.

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Br. Anthony VanBerkum entered the Order in 2013. Before entering, he studied Physics at Stanford University. On