Yeah…I’ve had that experience of being left "hanging"waiting for an apologist response that never quite came…
In the Gospels, as well as the Acts, it appears every time Jesus or the Apostles came across someone who was physically sick or incapacitated in some way, they were healed and never told that it was “God’s will” that they remain sick.
Why then does the Church teach (or does She teach at all) that physical sickness, pain etc (apart from persecution) are necessary or a part of God’s plan for us as believers, if in fact we have a “better covenant” than those in the Old Testament?
OK, several things to consider. First off, why did Christ heal people? It was part of his revelation of who He is, who God is. Don’t forget that the Jews of the OT believed illness to be a consequence of actual sin(vs original) - either their own or one of their ancestors. This is most vividly demonstrated from the account of the healing at the Pool of Siloam from the 9th chapter of John’s Gospel:
[quote=Gospel of John, Chapter 9]1* As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth.a 2* His disciples asked him,**(“http://www.usccb.org/bible/john/9#51009002-b”) “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
See how they thought that his blindness was a consequence of actual sin? But listen to what does Jesus says…
[quote=Gospel of John, Chapter 9]3Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.
This poor guy was blind his entire life as part of God’s will to reveal His works to others. So that is one dimension of physical suffering that was part of God’s loving plan for Mankind (ie the full revelation of Himself through Christ).
I think there is another dimension to consider as well. The time of Christ’s earthly mission was unique. Incredible things were happening - including healings - that were unique to the time. We get a hint of this in Christs conversation with John’s disciples that demanded to know why Christ’s didn’t fast…
[quote=Gospel of Matthew, chapter 9]Then the disciples of John approached him and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast (much), but your disciples do not fast?” 15Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
The time of Christ’s earthly mission was a special time that obviated fasting, but once it’s over, their will be fasting again. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to think that the miraculous healings were also something unique to that time and that it would not always be quite that way.
Another hint that things would be different once Christ left with respect to wellness comes from an indirect logic of what he said here:
Then Judas the Iscariot, one [of] his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said, 5“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages* and given to the poor?” 6He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.e 7So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial.* 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
Here is another reaffirmation that things are different during Christ’s earthly mission than they will be afterwards. More to the issue of health, however, is the comment that you will “always have the poor with you”. Poverty is not going away here on earth. One of the consequences of poverty is poor nutrition which has as a consequence poor health. Christ saying that we would always have the poor is another way of saying that we would always have the ill with us. It is part of the consequence of the Fall. Christ came not to create Heaven on earth, but to reveal “God to Man and Man to himself” and to redeem us through his sorrowful Passion. When a Christian bears the sorrows of life - including physical suffering - with confident faith in God’s love and hope in the life to come, they bear witness to God (and image Christ in the process).
One of my favorite prayers is the Divine Mercy Chaplet…given to St. Faustina by Christ himself. Listen to the final prayer…
“Eternal God, in whom mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible - look kindly upon us and increase your mercy in us that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to your holy will, which is love an mercy itself.”
We know that all things work for good for those who love God (cf Rom 8:28) - even physical illness.