Was Jesus Ever Ill?
I just finished reading the TCA Faith section of the May/June issue, and I don’t agree with the response given to the question “Was Jesus Ever Ill?”
In his answer, Father Ray Ryland relies on a presumption that Jesus enjoyed bodily perfection, which would have prevented his susceptibility to germs and, hence, disease or illness.
First of all, although Scripture only refers to Jesus’ experience of thirst and fatigue, its silence about other physical ailments would not, in itself, be enough to definitively claim Jesus never had any other ailments.
Second, I’m not aware of (and I’m not going to take the time before sending this to find out) any official teaching about Jesus’ physical body being perfect and immune from disease. If there is such a teaching, it would seem to fly in the face of another teaching that is based on Scripture — namely, that Jesus Christ was like us in ALL things but sin.
I’ve taken great comfort from this teaching through the years because it makes Jesus a great empathizer; He knows very well what life in this world is like, what it’s like to be human, how hard it is to be human, and how challenging it is to live well the human life in the face of temptation and suffering.
I’ve preached to my people that Jesus endured many of the same kinds of sufferings we endure in this world well before His passion, even though the Scriptures are silent about His life’s details from when Mary and Joseph found Him in the Temple to the start of His public ministry.
If he never had a headache, a cold, the flu, or diarrhea, or any other kind of sickness/illness whatsoever, can we really claim he was like us in ALL things but sin?
Father Michael Cambi, Sacred Heart Parish, Stamford, N.Y.
Father Ryland replies: Thank you for your letter, Father, which raises an important question about the meaning of the Incarnation.
First of all, Jesus’ bodily perfection would not have prevented His being “susceptible” to sickness and disease. “Susceptible” also means “accessible.” He continually ministered to the sick and the suffering. But the purpose of the human immune system is to combat and resist germs in any form.
Our Lord’s perfect immune system would have prevented His incurring the diseases “accessible” to Him.
In the context of “other physical ailments,” you speak of “thirst and fatigue.” You can also include “hunger.” Yet these are not “ailments.” They are simply God-given functions of physical bodies, whether human or animal.
Your difficulty, I think, arises out of an incomplete understanding of the doctrine “like us in all things but sin.” The doctrine really means not only “like us in all things but sin.” It also means “like us in all things but anything in any way connected with sin.”
All evil — and sickness and disease in themselves are evil — is ultimately the result of sin.
Because of their origin, sickness and disease could have no part in the perfect body of the Incarnate Lord.
Concerning “Wandering Sheep” (TCA Life, May/June): The last sentence of the second paragraph of the answer begins, “Odds are, they really never learned or practiced the faith growing up.”
I agree that many of us parents (certainly me included) did not do a very good job in teaching the faith to our children.
Also, the confirmation class that my sons attended was very deficient regarding the teaching of the Faith.
My thoughts: After children have graduated from college and have become “Wandering Sheep,” and parents attempt to enter into discussion with them regarding the faith and send them multiple books regarding the faith without any response, it seems to me that such children are exhibiting an obstinate refusal to remain in Jesus’ Church and are certainly headed in the direction of being counted among the goats.
I will certainly appreciate a response to my thoughts. I am really struggling with this real-life fact right now.
John Funk, Roswell, N.M.
Father Francis Hoffman replies: My thoughts? St. Monica prayed for her son Augustine for 17 years before he submitted to God and converted to the one true faith.
Your children may in fact be obstinate, and might be headed in the direction of the goats: and for that reason you must redouble your prayer and sacrifice for your children.
You cannot argue your children into the Church: you must win their hearts by being Christlike.
I found a copy of your fine magazine at my church. That is how I came to subscribe. I want to tell you what a blessing it has been to my life. Thank you for publishing it.
David Giffin, via e-mail