“Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy…But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them” (Matt 8:3b-4).
As I listened this morning to Joy FM’s education on cervical cancer, I could not but wonder how many women and people have died because medicine (science) and faith has been separated to the point that to seek medical attention in some situations is considered as an act of unfaithfulness or lack of faith in the healing power of God.
Ignorance indeed is killing many: and this ignorance is not only on the part of people of faith but fuelled by men of God who seem to give the impression that to seek medical attention and intervention is a demonstration that we have no faith in God. In the documentary, a woman claims to have had a dream that seems to confirm that the symptoms she is experiencing that may point to cervical cancer is not as the doctors have diagnosed but it is a spiritual problem.
There have been cases where doctors have been angry with patients because after diagnosing them, they go away to see men of God, only to return when the situation is incurable. We have heard cases where pregnant women have lost their lives with their babies because a pastor told them not to undergo a caesarean section. And indeed, when you listen to prayers offered against caesarean sections, it seems as though when a woman through complications undergoes such an operation, she has been attacked by the evil one.
The relationship between medicine and faith can be seen in the role played by priests in especially the Old Testament (Cf. Lev. 14:3). Why would Jesus ask the leper to go and see the priests after he had healed him? Does he doubt his own healing power? Certainly not, but Jesus respects the processes of healing within society. Therefore, in the Catholic Church when a person believes he has experienced the healing power of God he is asked to go to the hospital to confirm the healing and indeed this becomes a proof that healing has taken place.
In the same way, there is nothing wrong when the faithful are directed to the hospital to seek medical care after which prayer is offered over them and the drugs they have been given, so that by respecting the gifts of God given doctors, they may experience the healing power of God.
“To think that Christian missionaries and missionary societies were the ﬁrst to bring modern medicine to Ghana in the 19th century” (M. M. Tabi, M. Powel, D. Hodnicki, 2006), confirms how Christianity has always seen medicine as part of God’s healing power and grace. You would just have to look at the number of religious hospitals and catholic hospitals in Ghana and the world. It is a sign that in no way can we claim that by seeking medical attention we deny our faith.
We cannot limit the power of God only to prayer camps and centres or churches, just as we cannot limit the gifts of healing to only pastors but we must acknowledge that such gifts extend to doctors, nurses and all health workers (Cf. 1 Cor 12: 7-11). Religious leaders, men of God, must work together with the health workers acknowledging that human beings cannot be reduced to simple biological analysis; for man is a complex whole.
Man is body, spirit and soul and hence all who are gifted to care for the various aspects of the human person should work together to achieve integral healing for man. Medical doctors, psychiatrist and religious leaders must collaborate if the body, spirit and soul of man would experience total healing.
Such collaboration requires that we strengthen our chaplaincies and counselling units in all our health facilities so that services given to people may consider their family, cultural and religious world view and backgrounds in order to help them in the healing process. Indeed, the choices made by individuals seeking healthcare services are strongly influenced by economic conditions, strong family and religious bonds (M. M. Tabi, M. Powel, D. Hodnicki, 2006).
It would, therefore, be unfortunate for a religious leader to lead his people to death through his ignorance and superstitious interpretation of every phenomenon that he does not understand as being caused by the devil.
As much as we do not want to deny the negative influence and attacks of the evil one, we also do not want to give the impression that everything is caused by the devil and begin to see him everywhere even where he is not. The word of Pope John Paul II remains valid: “faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth” (Fides et Ratio n.1).
Source: Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Salifu