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Emeka wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • If God has given us the authority to heal the sick and perform miracles in His Name as per Luke 10:19 or thereabouts, does it mean that anytime we exercise this authority, let's say over a sick person, that this person will be healed?
    • If not, then what does the authority mean?
    • Why call it authority?
  • Didn't Christ give the priests authority to forgive sins and say that anytime they forgive sins using His authority, they would be forgiven?
  • If so, then why do those who have the gift of healing, exercise this gift and run into cases where the the sick person doesn't heal?


  { What does authority mean if some aren't always healed and what's the exception in Matthew 19:9? }

Mike replied:

Dear Emeka,

The Church has two sacraments of healing with distinct purposes:

  1. Confession, also known as Penance or Reconciliation, and
  2. The Anointing of the Sick (which was previously referred to as Extreme Unction.)

The way you phrased your first question makes me wonder if you understand the difference between the two. Understanding important Catholic teachings in their appropriate context is important to a well-formed Catholic conscience.

For that reason, I suggest you read what the Church teaches about both sacraments from the Catechism on this:

While the Anointing of the Sick is usually administered in cases of serious illness or near death, Confession usually focuses solely on the forgiveness of our sins during our physically healthy Earthly pilgrimage.

Under the Brief or Summary for the Anointing of the Sick the Catechism tells us:

In Brief - The Anointing of the Sick.

1532 The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects:

  1. the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church;
  2. the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church;
  3. the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age;
  4. the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of Penance;
  5. the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul;
  6. the preparation for passing over to Eternal Life.

Under the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation the Catechism tells us:

The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.

IX. The Effects of this Sacrament.

1468 "The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God's grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship." (Roman Catechism, II, V, 18) Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation "is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation." (Council of Trent (1551): DS 1674) Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true "spiritual resurrection," restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God. (cf. Luke 15:32)

1469 This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it. In this sense it does not simply heal the one restored to ecclesial communion, but has also a revitalizing effect on the life of the Church which suffered from the sin of one of her members. (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:26) Re-established or strengthened in the communion of saints, the sinner is made stronger by the exchange of spiritual goods among all the living members of the Body of Christ, whether still on pilgrimage or already in the heavenly homeland: (cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 48-50)

It must be recalled that . . . this reconciliation with God leads, as it were, to other reconciliations, which repair the other breaches caused by sin. The forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his innermost truth. He is reconciled with his brethren whom he has in some way offended and wounded. He is reconciled with the Church. He is reconciled with all creation. (Pope St. John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 31,5)

1470 In this sacrament, the sinner, placing himself before the merciful judgment of God, anticipates in a certain way the judgment to which he will be subjected at the end of his earthly life. For it is now, in this life, that we are offered the choice between life and death, and it is only by the road of conversion that we can enter the Kingdom, from which one is excluded by grave sin. (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:11; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 22:15) In converting to Christ through penance and faith, the sinner passes from death to life and "does not come into judgment." (John 5:24)

You said:
If God has given us authority to heal the sick and perform miracles in His Name as per Luke 10:19 or thereabout does it mean that anytime we exercise this authority, let's say over a sick person, that this person will be healed?

  • If not, then what does the authority mean?
  • Why call it authority?

No, it does not mean the person will be healed. They could be healed or God could call him or her home to Himself. Nevertheless, what the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick does is prepare that ill person to meet the Lord in the spiritually purest manner possible.

This doesn't take away from the authority that priests have to administer the Anointing of the Sick or any of the sacraments. It is just a choice God has made to bring that person home to Himself at that time.

I think a phrase we have used in the past is:

The sacraments are bound to God, but God is not bound to the sacraments.

We call it authority because, through the Divine Authority Jesus founded in 33 A.D. on St. Peter and his successors, and before He ascended into Heaven, He instituted all seven sacraments of the Church with the Apostles there learning from Him as the First Future Teachers of the Church.

I hope this helps,


Emeka replied:


  • Are you saying it is only the ministerial priests that have the authority and gift (of healing) to heal the sick?

God gave Christians authority over sickness and said that when we lay hands on the sick, they will be healed (Mark 16:18) and He also gave some people the gift of healing. (1 Corinthians 12:9)

  • Why are the sick not always healed if God's Word is true as per Mark 16:18?


Bob replied:

Dear Emeka,

I think you are getting misled by Protestant notions about authority, which sometimes suggest that all we must do is speak the Word and what we say must be: (like name it, claim it.)

This notion arises from a modern health and wealth Gospel that connects the intrinsic power of God's utterances (cf. Isaiah 55:11) to every disciple, but that is not a Biblical, nor Catholic view. For example, when Jesus commissioned the disciples in Mark 16, He did not guarantee that every instance of laying hands would result in a healing, but only that they would see these signs as demonstration of the power of God. This distinction is critical. Read the Scriptures (Mark 16) in context again and ponder that.

There is a sect today that thinks we should not fear snakebites for if you are a believer you will not succumb to it, and therefore they handle poisonous snakes in a show of faith; some even drink poison. This is not what Jesus suggested should become a practice, or would condone, but literalists always take things too far.

He was simply encouraging them that, despite the many traps and obstacles that the world would throw at them to stifle the spread of the Gospel, God's power and presence would assist and strengthen and even protect them in the fight. That being said, He didn't say there wouldn't be a need to carry a cross or that martyrdom wouldn't happen either.

  • The health and wealth preachers never talk about our need to carry the Cross, do they?

Many Christians were put to death so invincibility has not to do with our bodies, but the faithfulness of God to the souls that trust in Him. Your body may perish, but your soul won't if it is placed in God's Care.

Also consider how Jesus did not, in every instance, perform miracles Himself, especially when He saw people trying to put Him to the test. (cf. Matthew 13:28) He was selective about healing for His own purposes.

It is clear that in other places the Apostles questioned Jesus about the apparent ineffectiveness of their prayers (regarding exorcism) and He told them sometimes greater measures were required: persistent prayer, fasting and penance. (Compare Matthew 10 with Mark 9:29.) While Matthew shows how Jesus gave the disciples authority over unclean spirits, that didn't imply that, all they had to do was speak and the demons would jump. It was more complicated than that, because often God wants something more from us, and those situations are meant to be grace-filled and involve us more deeply in the economy of salvation.

It will always come down to God's Will in the end, and perhaps He doesn't intend to heal someone in this life because He has a greater purpose. We must always add If it be Your Will to every (intercession|petition), for we cannot see as God does.

There is an economy to salvation for which you and I must contribute; otherwise God would have finished it long ago. Protestants love to tout the finished work of Calvary, but that doesn't tell the story of our part — the part that God made for us, to be grafted into His Very Life and Plan, for His and our glory. He is glorified by empowering us to be part of the equation, not in place of Christ, but because of Christ. So our actions must emulate His, and do the work we see Our Father doing.

In the end, if prayers don't produce the wanted result, then we must trust that God had a better view of the situation. I think we are entering into a time in human history when that need for discernment is more paramount than ever.


Bob Kirby

Emeka replied:

Thanks Bob,

  • But if it ultimately (reduces to|comes down to) God's Will, then why should we petition God since He cannot change His Mind?


Bob replied:

Dear Emeka,

For the same reason Jesus took the road to Calvary, even though he prayed,

"Father if it be possible, let this cup pass . . . but not as My Will but Your Will be done." (Luke 22:42, Matthew 26:39)

We are actors in the economy of salvation. What we do and pray makes a difference to God, who spends it like currency. He uses our sacrifices, which includes prayer, because all of these things count. Understand that God can do all things without us, but he won't do all things without us. That was His Choice to include us. He is training us up to be like Him, because he is adopting us into His Divine Family. What God does by nature, we must do by grace, and so every act of self giving, including prayer, conforms us to His Likeness, who is The Eternal Act of Total Self-Giving.

Therefore, we may not change God's Mind, but we can move Him to act on His Will. Jesus gave us the example of the persistent widow. She kept pestering the judge to give her justice, not to change his mind, but to act on what was right. That example was meant to teach us that if we want God to move we need to pray, a lot.

  • Why?

Because to pray is to love, and to love is to be like God.


Bob Kirby

Emeka replied:

OK Bob,

  • But if, from all eternity, God has chosen not to do what you are asking for — then what difference does our perseverance make?

  • Can you also tell me what John means by calling Jesus the Word in John 1:1?
  • What does it mean that Jesus is the Word of God?

Please try to explain this in a simple way.


Bob replied:

Dear Emeka,

Let me rephrase your question for you.

  • What is the use of persistent prayer if we are asking for something that is not God's Will?

Even though we may be pressing God for something that He knows is not according to His Will, He will still reward the prayers with grace that He will apply in the best way.

Imagine this: For years you are begging your Dad for a motorcycle. You are:

  • doing extra chores
  • giving him most of your paychecks
  • being super nice to your siblings
  • you stop cursing
  • you stop wasting time on social media, and
  • a host of other things.

You are trying to communicate how important this thing is. Nevertheless, your Dad is never going to buy you a motorcycle. The whole time he has been putting the money away so your college is paid for and he even has enough for your wedding gown down the road.

  • Is he a stingy mean Dad or does He love you?

You've got to learn to trust that God will answer your prayers the best way. We can ask for whatever we want, but ultimately we should strive to align our will with His.

You said:

  • Can you also tell me what John means by calling Jesus the Word in John 1:1?
  • What does it mean that Jesus is the Word of God?

Please help me explain in a simple way.

John is referring to a concept that both Jews and Greeks would understand (Logos) that bears much greater significance than we get in English. For the ancients, this denoted the very intellect, mind, power, will and expression of the self. The total potency of God's Own Mind and Self.

This opening verse of John is meant to parallel Genesis:

"In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth . . ."

so, John is saying that the Word, God's whole Self (really the Incarnate Word, Jesus, cf. verse 14) is creating again, but a new creation. He is remaking the world.

  • How many days does Genesis say God took to create the world and everything?

Reread the first chapter and the beginning of chapter 2 of John's Gospel and count the days that John lays out.

  • What did you find?
  • What happens on that last day?

Let me know what you find.


Bob Kirby

Paul replied:

Bob —

I think Emeka might be saying that:

  • if God won't give you something unless you ask, it is His Will from all eternity, that you don't have it, and
  • When you ask for something and He gives it to you, you have moved His Will — because if you didn't ask, He wouldn't have given it to you.

If God is pure act (as Aquinas would say), and is immutable and unchangeable in every way, then even our prayers cannot change His Eternal Will eternally informed by His one eternal Thought.

So on the one hand, it seems our prayers or anything else we do, cannot change God's Eternal Will on anything. On the other hand, if you understand that our prayers, works, and sacrifices are all part of God, one eternal Thought, then God's dependence on our prayers to bring things about in this world is all within His One Eternal Thought, of His One Eternal Will.

From this perspective, our prayers don't contradict His Will, they bring about His Eternal Will in time.


Emeka replied:

St. Thomas Aquinas in answering the objection of whether we can change God's Will by our prayer said that God's providence involves not only willing certain effects to take place but also the 'causes from which those effects will be brought about.

If Aquinas is speaking in this way, then it means that God has eternally predetermined what will happen and what will bring it about.

  • If so, then how can we have free will?
  • Also what, if the secondary causes fail to perform, will bring about the effect?
  • Will the effect which God had eternally decreed still come to pass?


Bob replied:


This is an area where there must be careful consideration of both God's omnipotence and respect for free will.

Many heresies have arisen when one side, of two seemingly contradictory notions (i.e., (God/man); (symbol/substance), are highlighted to the exclusion of the other.

For example, when talking about predestination we can't say that God wills certain people to be saved and also to be dammed. Rather He wills all to be saved (cf. 1 Timothy 1:4). To say that God pre-wills some to be damned is heretical, because that negates free will. You can only say God wills damnation in that it is His right judgement with respect to the free will of the subject.

These paradoxes are mysteries because they defy our ability to completely comprehend.

How Jesus is fully God and fully Man is not within our ability to grasp; it is in the order of faith. We can name the reality — Hypostatic Union — but we will never (sound|comprehend) its depth.

So too, when we pray, we know God does respond, because Jesus taught us so, therefore, I would ponder some of these teachings to get fuller picture:

These are only a few verses. There are many more, but you get the point. The Bible has a lot to say about prayer, even though it can sometimes seem confusing but if there is anything that you should takeaway, is simply this: Pray, it works.


Bob Kirby

Emeka replied:

Thanks Bob,

Just one last question for you.

  • How does the Church interpret the exception clause in Matthew 19:9?

I have been seeing different kinds of interpretations from Catholics, even Catholic apologists and Church Fathers, and it is quite frustrating and confusing.


Bob replied:

Dear Emeka,

The exception has to do with the key word in the text, porneia: one with several dimensions; our modern word pornography is derived from it. Some translations say adultery, and others, fornication. The word is also used for incest, harlotry (prostitution) and pretty much any relationship that is just based on sex.

The sense that would have been clear to Jesus' audience would have been illegitimate relationships. They were not real marriages to begin with. (People living together [not married], mistresses, etc.) In our own time, we have seen common law marriage which is when people live together like married people. The law treats the marriage as legitimate for the sake of the surviving partner (there was never any ceremony, religious, civil or otherwise). This idea of living together is nothing new. It was around in Jesus' day, and while many (especially important people) may not have been openly criticized, people knew the difference. Consider Herod and his wife that he stole from his brother. John the Baptist called him out on it, but most of the time, during that period, no one did.

So, when Jesus is setting things straight He is telling them that marriage is indissoluble, and the only exceptions are what people know to be illegitimate unions anyway.

Today the Church teaches the same. Marriage is until death.

Annulments are recognition that the marriage was sacramentally flawed at the outset, by some defect of will, consent, validity, consummation, etc. They are not a Catholic divorce.

That is why King Henry VIII ran into trouble — his first wife was legitimate, and back then just because you were King didn't mean you could get an annulment.

Overall, the process today is pretty well developed and takes into consideration the persons psychological state at the time — which can have an enormous effect.

For example, a woman who gets pregnant may feel she has little choice or just wants a better life for the child, so she consents to marriage, but not in a total act of freedom. It is flawed because her consent was flawed, even if that takes years to fully play out. The most blatant form of that, would be what was is called a shotgun wedding.

There is obviously a lot more to this, but I hope that gives you a little idea of His Intent.


Bob Kirby

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