Christ as Divine Physician

Of late, I've had the chance to lead a local group of Catholic faculty in faith formation, and one of the themes I addressed is the image of Christ as the divine physician. A starting point for this image are Christ's numerous healing miracles, but especially his words: "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." (Mk 2:17).

This motif, this idea of Christ as a kind of doctor, doesn't seem to get much attention in many of the popular reflections about Jesus. He is a miracle worker, he is the good shepherd, he is priest, prophet and king: but physician? We don't hear much about this. 

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What possibilities open to us if we analogize Christ to a doctor, and we as his patients?

When we come before a doctor, we cannot (or not easily) conceal our wounds or pains. The blood test, the MRI, the CT-scan or the doctor's informed questions: these will reveal our maladies regardless of what we hope to be the case. They give us an objective look at our condition. They might reveal something troubling or worrisome, but they are the starting point for renewal.

When we head to the doctor, we acknowledge we don't have the answers. We acknowledge our need for for expertise. Crucially, this expertise -- the doctor -- does not come to condemn us. A wise and kind physician doesn't rebuke us for not exercising or for eating poorly. But neither does a good doctor ignore our laziness or bad habits. A good doctor will give us a prescription for spiritual health and lay out the consequences if we ignore her or his advice. The doctor exists to restore and to renew, not to remind the patient about how terrible he or she has been.  

As we look ahead to the winter and holiday months, a time of significant personal and spiritual acitivity, we might ask: If we took a spiritual x-ray, what would we find? When we take stock of our inner world and all that makes up our attitude toward God and faith, what condition is it in? If there was something like a "GodMD.com," what symptoms would you research? What would your questions be? 

I offer this suggestion as we approach Advent: consider coming to Christ as a patient. Be as open and honest as you possibly can, even if it leaves you embarrassed or ashamed. We don't approach Jesus only when we are healthy; we approach him precisely because we are not. Surrender to his diagnosis -- and his cure.  

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