A few weeks ago Rev. Brewer gave a wonderful sermon on the meaning of curing vs. healing and I could not help to think that I would like all of my patients to hear his words. He generously shared his sermon and the gospel reading that preceded it:

From Luke 17

And it happened, as he was on his way to Jerusalem, that he was going between Samaria and Galilee. And on entering one of the villages, he met ten men with leprosy, who stood at a distance; and they raised their voices and said: “Jesus, master, have mercy on us!” And seeing them, he said: “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And it happened that as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, seeing that he was healed, turned back and praised God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at his feet, thanking him for what he had done; and he was a Samaritan.

In answer, Jesus said: “Were there not ten who were cleansed? Then where are the nine? Was no one to be found to turn back and praise God’s revelation except for this stranger?” And he said to him: “Arise and go your way; your faith has become a healing force in you.”

There is a fundamental difference between the concept of curing and that of healing. Today, if one pays attention to such things, it is clear that our society tends to blur the distinction, and then concentrate primarily on curing, or more particularly, on finding cures. There is a great realm of research. Some of the work is done for profit, but a greater deal is done with the help of charitable donations. There is probably a charitable foundation named for every significant disease in the world. And the doctor’s last triumphant word to the patient is often: “You are cured.”

Indeed, people can be cured, but that always means cured of a particular disease. The cure is for the disease, not for the person. And that is the difference between a cure and a healing.

One never speaks of healing a disease, only of healing a person. A cure is an end; so is a healing, but in a very different way. Healing is rather a transition, a threshold between one stage of one’s existence and the next. Thus, it is often a beginning for an element of a life story that was not there before.

A cure is outwardly applied; where does healing come from? Partly it comes from the one who heals, but something must also arise from the one who is being healed. We cannot be healed against our will.

So healing comes about through the meeting of two people. It is a kind of conversation between the two, and they have to believe in each other. The one who is sick must believe in the healer, but the healer must also believe in the one he or she is caring for. And thus it is ultimately our faith that makes us whole.

J. M. Brewer, September 7, 2013