If “lola”dies at the age of 95, we normally do not question her death. Rather, we are eager to know her secret for long life. However, if a young person dies, we are often “shocked” and may even experience a crisis in our faith, blaming God for the death.
Sometimes when a person is diagnosed with an incurable illness such as cancer, aside from seeing a doctor, he goes to an albularyo (faith healer), mangtatawas (an “occult practitioner” who drips molten candle wax into a basin of water and interprets the resulting form as the cause of an illness), manghihilot(a masseuse who use incantations to invoke the help of spirits to heal a patient), or mananambal(an “occultist” who uses sorcery to treat maladies) hoping to get cured by them. According to Fr. Jose Syquia,* the devil is behind these rituals so we should not be deceived by them.
We have to understand that although we want physical healing, Jesus never promised everyone a long life. He instituted the sacrament of anointing of the sick which gives spiritual as well as physical strength. But He did not institute it to eliminate death. He instituted this sacrament to give sick people the strength they need to face death. The Church never promises to work miracles to heal an incurable sickness.
Anointing of the sick heals the soul, and the body if it is expedient. If the recovery is not good for the person dying, God will not grant recovery. Only God can judge. Maybe the sick person is ready for heaven. Maybe he will suffer setbacks in the spiritual life if he lives. God will cure the sick person if it is spiritually good for him. However, we should not expect a sudden miraculous recovery, as if the sick person will just rise up from bed and resume a normal life. Our Lord usually works through natural causes.
God is more interested in our eternal salvation. We may die young or we may live long – we just have to trust His infinite wisdom.
*Fr. Jose Francisco Syquia, director of the Archdiocese of Manila Office of Exorcism
(Reference: “The Faith Explained Today” by Fr. Joe Babendreier; “Occult, Pagan Practices Ruin Faith in God, says Exorcist” inquirer news)