Todays readings feature healing. We see Job anguished at life’s suffering. Paul, in the second reading gives us the remedy, blessed rest in Christ. We see that Lord in the gospel healing suffering all around him. Lets confess ways we doubt his healing presence or fail to be his healing hands to others..
There is a story told of Mother Theresa. One day in a Calcutta street she saw a poor man in the gutter. He was thin, sick and covered all over with flies and sores. She lifted him up, took him to her house, washed him, put ointment on his wounds and gave him fresh clothes and food. Soon after he died. Her helpers said: “what was the point of bringing him here, he died anyway”. “The point”, she said, “was the smile on his face as he died”.
In Tralee I was chaplain in the Bons hospital. Reading its history I was struck by how its aims resembled Mother Theresa’s: to care with human warmth for the sick and dying, especially the poor, aged and underpriveleged. They served not only physical needs but the whole person, each one’s dignity as a child of God.
Suffering is a mystery, part of the human condition since the fall, but it is not God’s will. If it were God’s will why did Christ, his son, spend his life combatting it? A mystery differs from a problem, which can be solved. Suffering, part of a fallen world needing redemption, remains. So the ministry of healing remains. The best response to suffering is medical science aided by Christian virtues – charity, compassion, social conscience, concern, caring, sympathy, brotherhood, kindness, love.
Thereby we continue Christ’s healing ministry while on earth. We see him in our gospel curing the outcast leper. So much of his public life was spent in such work. For if suffering and sickness is part of human existence, a source of redemption when offered up, its not God’s will. Its part of a fallen world we redeem like Christ by active charity. That includes mental and spiritual ills. Christ didnt just heal physically, he healed minds and souls too. Indeed, faith has a huge part even in physical healing. As Mother Theresa was fond of pointing out if our ministry of care to others is done from deep love of God then it has a deeper dimension, that brings wholistic healing.
Again the Bons manifesto come to mind. The sisters’ ministery was all embracing. A Cork protestant wrote in 1879 when the sisters were collecting for a hospital: “if everyone had been able to see the intelligent & devoted care given by the sisters in time of suffering as I have, then the sum which they need would not be difficult to collect”. In 1978, when they were celebrating 100 years of service to Tralee, A Kerryman editorial noted: “The sisters of good help came to a poverty stricken town in 1878 to move among the sick, nurse them in their homes. They have served the community well with their nursing skills and with a sympathy engendered by the holy life they lead”.
But this work’s not just for religious, its the duty of all Christians. St Theresa of Avila says “Christt has no hands on earth now but ours”. All Christians are called by baptism to be healers. Indeed as religious decline you lay people must take up that work as never before, especially at home with sick relatives We should do that work with Christ’s love and compassion. For the sake of our eternal reward and to imitate our Lord. For the hard values of the world of which Satan is lord turn ashes at last but Christ is lord of living compassion, for healing in this world and forever and ever, amen. As God’s own, called to be his healing hands to the needy around us, let’s profess our faith.
For the leaders of the church, especially our holy Father, that they may promote the key work of charity and care for others in body and soul, to continue the healing work of Christ today.
For our civil leaders that their main focus may be the healing of the sufferings of people who elected them, especially the disabled in body or mind, the house-bound, the sick, the aged and the underpriveleged in society..
For our youth that their whole focus may not just be on their own wealth, big houses, well-paid jobs, pleasure but also have compassionate hearts to reach out to the needy and give of their time to helping and healing others..
For ourselves in our homes, workplaces and communities that we may have time to listen to the worries and needs of those around us and respond with the love and care of Christ.
For our sick that through our care, and that of medical professionals and pastoral priests they may know the love of God.
For the dead that their joys and suffering in this world over they may know eternal peace, rest and happiness with the Lord, helped on their way by our personal and communal prayers..
We ask these prayers through Christ, the Healer of the world forever and ever, amen.
The story of Lourdes is a good example not only of the desire of God to heal us in body and soul but also the heavenly care of Mary, our Mother. She appeared to the poor ashmatic Bernadette and made her an instrument of universal healing, both physical and spiritual. The same is true of Marian shrines all over the world. She came to knock after the famine because her heart was broken by the sufferings of her Irish children then. Lets pray to her that she will help all of us and all people to reach out with healing help to those suffering in our world..Hail Mary